For the first time, the Indian Super League (ISL) will be interrupted by an international break in the second week of October. The Indian National team will use this time to prepare for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
The Blue Tigers will face China on October 13 at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in an international friendly.
The fixture should be a good rehearsal before the main show in January when they will be up against Asia’s best. This decision to play a friendly against big guns like China was met with optimism in the Indian camp. Ahead of the preparatory fixture, Chennaiyin FC striker Jeje Lalpekhlua said that he is looking forward to the test against Team Dragon.
“I think this game is not going to be easy. It is going to be difficult. This game is for the preparation of the Asian Cup and it’s good for us. We will get a good opportunity to play against a big team. We will look to take something from this game.”
The forward had words of encouragement for his national team and Chennaiyin FC teammate Anirudh Thapa. Jeje was vocal about the youngster’s skill set and huge potential.
“He (Thapa) is a good player and a nice person. In the last three years, he has shown this through his gameplay. I think he did well in the SAFF cup for the national team and in the ISL for Chennaiyin FC. I think he’s one of the best midfielders of the country.”
There is bound to be a clash in philosophies when players take the field under different coaches. Speaking about playing under John Gregory for Chennaiyin FC and Stephen Constantine for the national team, Jeje made it clear that the crux remains the same: to win the game.
“As a player, you need to adapt to whatever style you play under. Right now I’m playing with this team (Chennaiyin) and under Constantine. Most of the players in the league are Spanish players.
"We need to adapt to whatever the coach wants. When you play for the club, you need to follow what the coach wants and when you play for the national team, you play how the (national team) coach wants.
"The main thing is to win the game. All the coaches want to win the game. What I prefer depends on the situation. If the defender or the midfielder can give me a good ball, it’s good for me.”
The Mizo Sniper feels that the defeat in the SAFF Cup final does not count for much and that the young guns are up for the challenges ahead.
“I wasn’t there in the SAFF Cup. But I think the boys are doing quite well. It happens in football, you do well and reach the finals but lose in the finals. I think they did well in the SAFF Cup.
“It’s always very difficult, playing an away game. And since the Asia Cup is in UAE, it’s an away game and a big test for us. The team is important. If we work together and play like how we did before, I’m sure we’ll get a good result.”