India's penultimate practice match, the second of a two-leg showdown against Malaysia, ahead of the 2011 SAFF Cup in December will see coach Savio Medeira experimenting with the team. After the central midfield combination of Climax Lawrence and Jewel Raja looked lacklustre in the 1-1 first-leg draw at Guwahati, both might begin Wednesday's tie at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan (YBK) here on the bench.
"I will be changing the team tomorrow, you can expect to see new faces starting the match," Medeira told HT after a practice session on Tuesday. "Baljit (Sahni) and Rocus (Lamare) will probably start in midfield. Anwar (Ali) might come in at the back," he said, adding that he will stick to a 4-4-2.
Asked if he plans to bring in a holding midfielder to reign in talismanic Malaysian medio Safiq Rahim who caused problems in the first outing, Medeira said, "It's not about marking just one player. It comes to closing down space and compactness in shape, not just in midfield but defensively and even in front."
"The opponents are fresh as their league ended last month. That is not the case for us but there's nothing we can do about it. Besides, their AFF Suzuki Cup win is quite a morale-booster but we managed to hold them in the first leg," said the former Salgaocar coach.
"We play Zambia in a few days after which we leave for Delhi on November 30. So a win tomorrow is a must."
Malaysia coach K Rajagopal seemed confident of a good showing but may miss skipper and centerback Norhafiz Zamani due to injury. "Also, I will probably play Safee (Sali) tomorrow, it makes no sense for him to have come all the way here and not start."
Sali, a much-acclaimed striker, came on for the last 10 minutes on Sunday and did little apart from getting into a minor altercation with India skipper Mahesh Gawli.
"Ranking is not an issue," continued Rajagopal. "The crowd, from what I've heard, is quite a factor here. But it won't make a difference to us. We could have killed off the match in the first half itself last time but we made mistakes. Tomorrow, we cannot afford to do that."
Neither side seemed too concerned about the YBK's artificial turf. "Most of the players have played here before but there is always the worry of an injury
when one plays on a pitch like this one," Medeira explained.
Rajagopal said, "We are not very used to it but the team has played on an artificial turf before against Singapore earlier this year. I doubt it will be too much of an issue."
The match kicks off at 6 30 pm and will be telecast live on DD Sports.