Updated: Jun 10, 2018
India are heavy favorites going into a tournament that's struggling to generate genuine interest. New Zealand and Kenya would be interesting opponents on a normal day but they have not sent their strongest squads; Premier League stars Victor Wanyama, Chris Wood and Winston Reid among the absentees.
Nevertheless, New Zealand are in terrible form with just 3 wins since the start of 2017, 2 of those against Fiji. In fact, the last time New Zealand beat a team from outside of Oceania was 2 and a half years ago, when they beat Oman courtesy a Chris Wood goal 4 minutes into the game in Muscat. They have gained some excellent exposure playing in the Confederations Cup and in the World Cup Playoffs but without the big stars, they are a very ordinary side.
Kenya might actually be in a worse state than New Zealand, if that was possible. They have won just 4 games since the start of 2017, drawing 7 and losing another 4. The biggest problem for them is that they have the worst attack in the tournament- averaging just 0.8 goals per game away from home and they will stand no chance if they fail to better that.
Adding to their on-field woes are reports that their coach, Sebastien Migne, has refused to travel with the squad. He is reportedly unhappy that clubs are refusing to release players for National team duty. India would have been favorites to beat a full strength Kenya side, but now it should be comfortable.
The final team in the tournament are minnows, Taiwan. Their squad includes the highly rated 17 year old midfielder, Will Donkin of Crystal Palace. Their results in Asia Cup qualifying were not very impressive. won 3 and lost 3, conceding 2 goals a game. They did lift the 2017 CTFA International tournament on home soil, against Timor Leste, Laos and a Philippines B team. That tournament win is considered the high point in Taiwan's football history and they will be looking to build on that success. They will need to sort their defence out - they've been conceding, on average, 3 goals a game since the start of 2011.
Tournament win probabilities,
GOALKEEPERS: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Bengaluru FC), Amrinder Singh (Mumbai City FC), Vishal Kaith (FC Pune City); Sanjiban Ghosh (Jamshedpur FC)
DEFENDERS: Subhasish Bose (Bengaluru FC), Sandesh Jhingan, Lalruatthara (both Kerala Blasters FC), Souvik Chakrabarti, Anas Edathodika ( both Jamshedpur FC), Salam Ranjan Singh (East Bengal), Jerry Lalrinzuala (Chennaiyin FC), Narayan Das (FC Goa), Pritam Kotal (Delhi Dynamos), Davinder Singh (Mumbai City FC)
MIDFIELDERS: Rowllin Borges, Halicharan Narzary (both NorthEast United FC), Vinit Rai (Delho Dynamos), Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC), Udanta Singh (Bengaluru FC), Mohammed Rafique (East Bengal), Bikash Jairu (Jamshedpur FC) Pronay Halder (FC Goa), Laldanmawia Ralte (East Bengal), Ashique Kuruniyan (FC Pune City)
FORWARDS: Balwant Singh (Mumbai City FC), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Chennaiyin FC), Seiminlen Doungel (NorthEast United FC), Alen Deory (Shillong Lajong FC), Manvir Singh (FC Goa), Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
Predicted Line Up (4-4-2)
India will be heavy favorites in all 3 of their games and it will be a good chance for the team to gel and work on some chemistry. Rowlin Borges will start in midfield but the second spot is up for grabs as Md Rafique put in a questionable performance in the last game and wasn't a regular for East Bengal last season. This is also a good opportunity to try an alternate option like Anirudh Thapa or Vinit Rai, but, I suspect Pronay Halder will get the nod. There are also question marks over Narzary and whether he's done enough to hold his place.
At left back, there is an intense battle between Jerry Lalrinzuala and Narayan Das. I don't expect Constantine to tinker too much, and go with the same line-up as in the last game vs Krygyzstan. Two obvious changes we might see are, the skipper for Balwant and fit again Pritam Kotal at right back.
Got questions that need answering? Find me on Twitter - @sgtsaltnpeppa