The reason for playing Yemen, according to India coach Bob Houghton, is that they have a style similar to Bahrain who are in India's group in next January's Asian Cup finals. Preparing for a tournament India haven't qualified since 1984, Wednesday evening's tie here will be their sixth and final friendly in the last two months before breaking for a fortnight.
"We just finished our last training session after three-and-a-half months of being together. Just as we enjoyed that, we are looking forward to the break," said Sunil Chhetri, whose hattrick fetched India a 3-1 win against Vietnam here on Friday.
On a high after ending a protracted goal drought, Chhetri said he is looking forward to the match at the Balewadi Sports Complex near here. "It's not important who scores I would love to end this with a win," said the striker who is likely to again start with Abhishek Yadav.
With injuries continuing to impede preparations, India are likely to retain the same XI that began against Vietnam. Skipper Bhaichung Bhutia is still unavailable as are Mahesh Gawli and Mohammed Rafi. Like on Friday, N.P. Pradeep, Steven Dias and Renedy Singh should see part of the action. "I hope Bhaichung bhai, Rafi and the rest are all on the same page when we reassemble next month before heading for Dubai," said Chhetri.
Houghton praised his centre-backs Gouramangi Singh and Anwar and goalie Subroto Pal but said he is looking to his strikers to put up a better show. Barring Chettri, no other striker has scored in the five internationals India played after a long training stint in Portugal.
"It will be the toughest tie for us so far. Yemen (now 107th on FIFA's rankings list) has improved over the period of time and so has improved their FIFA ranking," Houghton said at the match-eve conference on Tuesday.