Indian football team is taking on China in a historic clash after 21 years- the blues’ road to the AFC Asian Cup 2019 will start with a series of friendlies against different teams, but the one match that stands out is India vs China-two nations with billions in population but both have failed to make a mark in the footballing world.

The Indian team is playing an international match for the first time in China though their senior sides have faced each other 17 times in the past. China have played in India seven times, all of them in the invitational tournament Nehru Cup.

India has not won a single match out of the 17 while China has come out trumps 12 on occasions. Five matches have ended in draws. The senior teams of India and China last played in the 1997 Nehru Cup in Kochi which the ‘Red Dragons’ won 2-1.

This match which will take place at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in China is termed as a ‘friendly’ but in real sense, it’s much more than that- The clash comes after 21 years and India which has shown a meteoric rise in the world football rankings in the recent years have a nation to prove- they are a much stronger and sharper side now than what they used to be two decades ago.

Here are five impactful players on India’s side, who are well capable of making the difference for the blues against the red dragons:

Sunil Chhetri: Goes without saying, isn’t it? his leadership qualities, goal-scoring abilities, and the eye to find space in tight angles is what makes him great. India’s all-time top goalscorer will need to be at the top of his game for this fixture.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu: He is a fan favorite among the Bengaluru FC fans, he brings to the table a telling figure of 6ft 4 guiding the goal, international experience and is one of the most highly-rated Indian footballers in the country. His performances have been great for his club, conceding just 17 goals in 19 appearances.

He also made 46 saves and held 7 clean sheets, 115 catches, and 37 clearances under his name. There are some high-expectations from India’s first-team regular goalkeeper.
Anirudh Thapa: The Central midfielder has been a consistent performer for team India and his presence in the midfield is very prominent by his defensive and offensive style of game-play. The man is everywhere, he can cover ground well, and deliver good long-balls for the forwards.

Jeje Lalpekhlua: This 27-year-old never fails to impress, and is an established name among the most prolific Indian goal-scorers in the league. In club level, he is Chennaiyin FC’s prized-possession and his quick feet and goal scoring abilities are easily notable. If he does against China what he does for Chennaiyin, we are in for a treat.

Sandesh Jhingan (Captain): He will lead the Indian football team against China on Saturday as coach Stephen Constantine termed the burly defender as one of the leaders of the team, going forward. According to Indian football team coach, Constantine,  Sandesh is a fighter and a leader. He gives everything on the pitch and reflects the right attitude.

There you have it then, the five big names of Indian football, the blues’fans wil be hoping these players hit top form when they take on China on Saturday.