India and Laos will begin a fresh quest towards the AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifiers when they meet in the first leg of their round one playoff in Vientiane's National Stadium. This will be the first meeting between the two countries in a FIFA international.
Laos, ranked 176th, are coming off the back of a morale-boosting 1-1 draw against Nepal at the same venue in a friendly on Sunday. India will be a bit rusty in comparison, having not played an international match since the last of their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification matches - a 4-0 defeat away to Iran and a 2-1 defeat at home against Turkmenistan.
Add to that the fact that coach Stephen Constantine is missing several of his regulars, this could be a tricky match for India to negotiate before hosting Laos in the return leg in Guwahati on June 7.
Form guide (last five matches, most recent first)
Laos DW*LLL (*World Cup qualifier awarded to Laos due to suspension of the Kuwait FA)
In the spotlight
Midfielder Phatthana Syvilay will renew acquaintances with some of the Indian players he faced in Bengaluru FC while playing for his club Lao Toyota FC during an AFC Cup group match. Syvilay's goalscoring ability - which he showed in netting the equalizer against Nepal on Sunday - will worry the Indian defence.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu kept a clean sheet in a 5-0 win for his Norwegian club Stabaek, becoming the first Indian to start a top division league game in Europe on Sunday. He will be raring to go in India colours, and with a home leg in Guwahati looming, his role will be critical in putting India at an advantage.