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Big blow...

As India prepare to face Asian champions Iraq on Thursday evening in an international friendly, the Men in Blues suffered a severe jolt as Sunil Chhetri suffered an ankle injury in training.

Chhetri was the star player for India in the friendlies played last month in Pune where he scored a brilliant hat-trick to help the 144 ranked nation down Vietnam with a 3-1 scoreline.

Facing Iraq wouldn’t be easy given that they are ranked 50 places above India in the latest FIFA rankings and are the reigning Asian champions.

With Bhaichung Bhutia yet to regain complete fitness, India will once again be bereft of his services. It is learnt that Abhishek Yadav, who scored a goal against Yemen in the 6-3 loss, and Sushil Singh are expected to start as the two strikers with Chhetri’s participation being doubtful.

The good news for India is that N.P.Pradeep is recovering after being operated on his meniscus in October second week and while Samir Naik has begun jogging. Mahesh Gawli, who sat out for the matches held in Pune, is training with the squad and looks to be in a healthy condition.

At the heart of the midfield, coach Bob Houghton might hand in an opportunity for the tough Rakesh Masih against the physically superior opponents alongside Climax Lawrence.

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