*Craig Fulton and Harmanpreet Singh

Bhubaneswar, February 10:  India  led by Harmanpreet Singh is all set to begin their FIH Hockey Pro League 2023/24 campaign when they take on Spain in their first match here on Saturday 

The League (Men) is scheduled to take place at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar from 10th February to 16th February; before moving to the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Rourkela, where the league will continue from 19th February to 25th February. 

Five national teams – Ireland, the Netherlands, India, Spain, and Australia – will participate in the India leg of the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023/24 (Men), facing each other once in Bhubaneswar and once in Rourkela.

“It is the home stretch before the Olympics and we are looking to get some consistent performances in. There are a few youngsters that are really exciting to watch and have been added to the squad. They will be given opportunities in these eight games so that we can confirm our Olympic squad,” said India's chief coach Craig Fulton.

India is coming into this tournament after travelling to South Africa, where they played three friendly matches against France and the Netherlands and one official match against hosts South Africa. 

India won 4-0 and recorded a 2-2 draw in their first and second game against France respectively. In the next game, they defeated South Africa 3-0 before losing to the Netherlands 1-5.  

“We have a good attacking game and we’ll look to balance that with our defense. The ambition of this team is extremely impressive. The South Africa tour was indicative of the fact that our team’s chemistry is right up there and there’s healthy competition within the squad and that is the need of the hour. 

We want to give the youngsters exposure to help them develop tactically and technically. There is an abundance of talent and that helps with the depth of the squad so that they are well prepared to come in and do well in case of injuries,” he added.

India will take on Spain, who recently qualified for the Paris Olympics 2024 in their first match on 10th February, followed by a clash with the number one ranked team in the FIH rankings, the Netherlands, on 11th February. They will face off against Australia on 15th February before playing their last game in Bhubaneswar against Ireland on 16th February.

In the last seven matches that India played against Spain, they were triumphant on four occasions. Spain emerged victorious when they beat India 2-1 at 2023 4 Nation Men’s Invitational Tournament (Barcelona) the last time the two teams faced each other.

India, being the higher ranked team at No.3 as compared to Spain at No.8, will draw inspiration from their 2-0 win over Spain when the two last faced off in India during the World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar – Rourkela.

"We’re really excited to be back in India to play the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023/24. We have the opportunity to play against some top-quality teams and we will get to prepare well for the Olympics. 

We’ve been working on the areas that needed attention and we’ll look to execute them in these matches that are extremely important to us,” Captain Harmanpreet added.

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