NEW DELHI: He is a bit concerned about his goalkeeper's inconsistent show so far in this season, but Indian men's football team coach Igor Stimac said he is confident that star custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will lift his game ahead of their upcoming international friendlies against hosts Bahrain and Belarus later this month.
Currently in a preparatory camp in Pune, the Blue Tigers are scheduled to play Bahrain on March 23 and Belarus on March 26 in Manama.
"The goalkeepers have been inconsistent this season. I already spoke to Gurpreet and he is aware that the season has not gone well," Stimac was quoted as saying in an AIFF release.
"But Gurpreet is one of the best goalkeepers in Asia, and I am confident of him, and all of them. We are already into the training process," the 54-year-old added.
Gurpreet and star centre back Sandesh Jhingan are in line to captain the side in the two friendlies in the absence of Sunil Chhetri, who has pulled out of the matches due to injury.
"We need to take it as a challenge. We need to learn to play when he isn't there," Gurpreet said.
"We cannot be too dependent this is a team sport after all. He (Chhetri) has been phenomenal for us and surely, it's a huge miss," he stressed.
In the absence of Chhetri, Gurpreet had led India to an epic goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar in a World Cup qualifier in 2019, which remains the high point of India's disappointing show in the recent past.
"This is a great opportunity against good teams. We are not in any position to take things lightly in the June qualifiers -- be it Cambodia, Afghanistan or Hong Kong," he said.
The two friendlies are a part of India's preparation for the Asian Cup final round qualifiers to be held in Kolkata in June.
India will play Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Cambodia at the Salt Lake Stadium from June 8 to 14 in Group D matches.