In what will be a curtain-raiser to the upcoming Asian Games, India and Pakistan resume their rivalry on the football pitch as they lock horns in the first of two friendly matches here tomorrow, bringing to an end a nine-year old hiatus.
It will be the first such series between the two countries since 2005 when India visited Pakistan for a three-match competition. The second friendly between the two U-23 teams is scheduled for August 20. India drew their last friendly earlier this year - against Bangladesh on March 5 - and coach Wim Koevermans would be desperately seeking to win both the games against Pakistan, to be played at Bangalore Football Stadium.
India should start as favourites considering they are ranked 150th in the FIFA charts as against Pakistan, who are placed at 165th spot, but Koevermans' men would not like to be complacent. Skipper Sunil Chhetri had already said they the hosts can't take is as "just another game".
The friendly series, sponsored and hosted by JSW Group, would provide an opportunity for India and Pakistan players to test their Asian Games-bound squad.
Upfront, India will heavily bank on Chhetri to provide the goals. The pint-sized Chhetri did his job by scoring all the five goals during the Indian team's exposure trip to Czech Republic. His presence on the field against arch rivals Pakistan would be enough to put fear in the opposition ranks and raise the moral of the young Indian team.
Alwyn George, an attacking midfielder, would look to put up a good show, especially after his poor form last season. Pranoy Haldar, who has played well for Dempo as a defensive midfielder, could prove to be handy for a relatively weaker defence.