India will be looking forward to carry on the fine form while Pakistan are eyeing a comeback from their recent poor results as the arch-rivals take on each other in their last group stage match of the Hero Asia Cup 2017 at Maulana Bhasani National Hockey Stadium Sunday at 5:30pm.
The high-voltage encounter will decide the group champion from Pool A but in almost every aspect of the game, India are the favourite to top the group. India defeated Japan and host Bangladesh 5-1 and 7-0 respectively while Pakistan beat the home side 7-0 but were held to a 2-2 draw by Japan.
A draw would be enough for India to top the group but Pakistan must win to leapfrog their opponent in Pool A. India have the upper hand in recent head-to-head meetings as they defeated Pakistan twice 7-1 and 6-1 in the Hockey World League semi-finals, held in London in June this year.
While talking about those big wins over Pakistan in London, India captain Manpreet Singh said, "It is (in the) past. Pakistan team missed a few players of the current squad. We just look forward to put our best (Sunday). We need to play our own game."
Manpreet added, "In the last match against Bangladesh, we played really well but we have to really improve against Pakistan. Playing the game as a team is very important. We look forward to improvements."
The sixth-ranked India team are currently the top-ranked side among the Asian nations while Pakistan are 14th in the overall ranking but the history of Asia Cup is slightly in favour of the latter. Pakistan won the first three Asia Cup titles in 1982, 1985 and 1989 and in all of those occasions, they defeated India in the final.
India bagged the Asia Cup title twice in 2003 and 2007, including a win over Pakistan 14 years ago. Out of six times the two sides faced each other in the Asia Cup, Pakistan have won five times.
Pakistan hockey has seen major changes in management after the London defeats, recalling a number of experienced players who were among the exclusions in the HWL squad.
"Six senior players were excluded for weird issue as per the decision of the team management and it had (an) adverse effect on the team. Three have returned to the team so far after new management took the responsibility. Now we are a better team. India are in a better shape but we also have some motivational factors. We beat them last year in the South Asian Games," said Pakistan skipper Mohammad Irfan Saturday.
He continued, "Hopefully Pakistan will be a different team [Sunday]. It's a very important game for Pakistan because any slip-up may open the door for the other teams of the group. If we slip and Japan beat Bangladesh by a big margin then we might be in trouble. Boys are motivated to play better brand of hockey."
According to the Asian Hockey Federation, Sunday's second match will witness the 170th clash between India and Pakistan with statistics showing that India have just 57 wins to Pakistan's 82 victories.
WHAT THEY SAID
Sjoerd Maryne, coach, India
For me it's just another match and we have approached the match just like another match. We are focusing on our own development. Strategy is really important for us. Strategy means what the players will have to do and it is really important to succeed.
Mohammad Sarwar, coach, Pakistan
You can't deny the pressure in an India-Pakistan match and we are heading towards it with a draw against Japan. We have to improve a lot to avail scoring opportunities and I have asked my boys to enjoy themselves during the game.