Even as the India squad leaves for Qatar on Wednesday for two friendlies, Bhaichung Bhutia and Sameer Naik will fly to Chennai to treat calf muscle problems that have kept them away from football for most of this season.
Bhutia, the India captain, and Naik, a left back who can also play in the midfield, are now with the national pool in Dubai where they are training for next month's Asian Cup finals. This is the first time since 1984 that India have qualified for the continent's biggest football tournament where 16 teams are divided into four groups.
"I have been training for 15-20 days but it (the right calf) is still stiff," Bhutia told HT from Dubai on Tuesday. "Maybe it's because I am pushing too hard when I shouldn't be."
Bhutia's season so far has been a litany of being either ill or injured. He returned from the preparatory camp in Portugal because of a thyroid problem. Bhutia played some 19 minutes against Thailand on September 8 having missed the away friendly because he wasn't match-fit.
Against Namibia on September 15, he was stretchered out in second-half stoppage time holding his right leg.
Goalie Bhattacharya doubtful
According to a member of the squad preferring anonymity, keeper Arindam Bhattacharya and Naik could miss the finals because of a shoulder injury.
Chopra would have helped
Bhutia said he wished Michael Chopra, a former England U-20 international, was available for the Asian Cup. "There aren't too many players at that level eligible for India.”