NEW DELHI: The "irreplaceable" Sunil Chhetri's absence from the friendly against Jordan is a huge blow, Indian football coach Stephen Constantine said Wednesday, staring at a bleak future upfront with his talismanic striker starting to grey.
The 34-year-old Chhetri has been ruled out of the November 17 friendly owing to an ankle injury. Constantine expressed concerns at the dearth of promising strikers and the void the country's all-time leading scorer's absence can cause.
"Sunil missing for the clash against Jordan is a big blow for us. He is a great player and has been fantastic for us in the last four years. He is one of those players that is irreplaceable but somebody has to take his place for the match against Jordan. Sunil is no spring chicken," Constantine said.
"However it is a great opportunity for young players to step up and although you cannot find a player of his calibre and class, we need to see if the young player step up and take this opportunity."
The match is in preparation for the Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in the UAE early in January-February 2019.
"We need to find somebody who will be there when we don't have Sunil Chhetri so that there is no void left in the team," Constantine said.
"I am trying to cover all the bases and I don't want my best players to remain injured and one of them right now is Sunil," he added.
The match at Amman is another opportunity for the coach to experiment tactics and gain valuable experience going into the mega competition next year.
"We want to do well in our preparation for the AFC Asian Cup and the clash against Jordan will aid us in that as Jordan are a good side and they have a number of good players in their ranks," Constantine said.
"We need to play teams like Jordan leading up to the Asian Cup where we would be under pressure. Even the game against China was the same where if you commit a mistake around the 18 yard box, you can easily concede. However, both sides are good technical sides and both present different challenges."
The clash against Jordan comes on the back of a goalless draw against a Marcelo Lippi-coached China last month.
"We have a plan that we would like to implement during the game and we have watched the teams a lot. We had watched China three to four times and we are prepared for the challenges that come our way," he added.
"Our preparation to the Asian Cup will also include a match against Oman and probably another friendly in December which is yet to be fixed."
The Indian team departs for Jordan Thursday, after a three-day camp in the capital where 30 players were called, including 18-year-old FIFA U-17 World Cupper Komal Thatal.
India have been drawn in Group A of the Asian Cup alongside hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain and face Thailand in their opening match on January 6.
"We deserved to be in the Asian Cup and we are in the best position that India has been in, in some time. We will travel to Abu Dhabi with 28 players before the tournament starts and then we will drop five on January 2," the English coach stated.
"We have a group of players that have worked on themselves in the last four years and I need to thank the AIFF (All India Football Federation) President Praful Patel, General Secretary Kushal Das for their constant support."
Complementing the Indian back-line, he said, "We would be under pressure in the Asian Cup and our backline has been pretty stable."