Doha: Starting as overwhelming favourites, a confident India will look to open their title defence on a positive note against an unpredictable China in the second edition of the Asian Champions Trophy here on Thursday.
The Sardar Singh-led India will approach the tournament with a new-found confidence and zeal having finished a creditable fourth in the prestigious Champions Trophy in Melbourne earlier this month.
India lost to arch-rivals Pakistan, whom they defeated enroute to the title here last year, to miss out on a bronze medal in Melbourne.
And this tournament will give a chance to Sardar and his boys avenge that defeat. Impressed by the Melbourne performance, India have retained the 18-member squad for Doha, an indication that the selectors are looking ahead.
Considering the level of competition in the tournament, Pakistan are the only team that will provide stiff competition to India.
Apart from India and Pakistan, Oman, Malaysia and Japan are the other teams in the six-nation event.
India have a relatively young team under Sardar and it has gelled well in the last few tournaments. Sardar will control the midfield while the backline will be under vice-captain VR Raghunath and Rupinderpal Singh’s responsibility.
India’s forward line, however, continues to give a few worries to chief coach Michael Nobbs, who feels Pakistan are red hot favourites for the title this year.