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AFC Asian Cup 2019: Bhaichung Bhutia advises India to wrap Sunil Chhetri in cotton wool ahead of mega event

906   //    16 May 2018, 10:20 IST

Sunil Chhetri and Bhaichung Bhutia

What's the story?

Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia has urged the management to keep current skipper Sunil Chhetri wrapped in cotton wool as he will play a vital role in their AFC Asin Cup campaign next year in the United Arab Emirates.

In case you didn't know...

India will feature in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup after a gap of 8 years, making it as the group toppers in the qualifying rounds. India have been clubbed with hosts UAE, Thailand and Bahrain in Group ‘A’ of the main draw and have a fair chance of making it to the Round of 16 if they play to their potential.

The heart of the matter

Sunil Chhetri is the most experienced player in the Indian squad and has played football at the top level for a long time. He has also played in foreign conditions, which makes him even more special. Bhaichung Bhutia said that the Indian striker should be kept in best possible condition for the Asian Cup.

"It is very important for us to keep Sunil (Chhetri) fit. I have gone through the experience and for me, Sunil staying fit in UAE is very important," said Bhutia in a press meet.

He added, "The good thing with Sunil is that he has the experience of playing in the Asian Cup. It is the biggest tournament for Indian players. After the World Cup, this is the biggest tournament for Asian football. So it doesn't get bigger than this.”

What's next?

India will play a few friendly matches before they finally board the flight to the Arabian nation in January next year. India are scheduled to play Thailand in their opening fixture on 6th January. The ‘Blue Tigers’ will play hosts UAE on the 10th and Bahrain on the 14th of the same.

Author's take

India have been handed a relatively easy draw and it is expected that they will make it out of the group stage as the second best-placed team or a best third-placed team. Although the competition will be tough, this is India’s best chance to make a mark in a big-ticket tournament.