Netherlands chief coach Max Caldas is expecting tough fight from the Indian hockey team at the second edition of the FIH Pro League, saying playing the eight-time Olympic champions in their own den is always challenging.
After skipping the inaugural edition of the Pro League, India are set to make their debut in the event against the Netherlands on January 18 and 19 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
Caldas emphasised on the importance of getting off to a good start in the Pro League, where they finished third last year behind winners Australia and Belgium.
"The matches against India are very important. Playing against India at their home ground is no doubt challenging, but it is also very exciting because we love playing in Bhubaneswar," Caldas said.
The matches between India and the Netherlands have always been competitive, and the upcoming two games are also expected to be closely contested.
In their last meeting, the Dutch side came out victorious 2-1 in the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
Caldas and India chief coach Graham Reid know each other's style, having worked together previously.
"Graham is a very experienced coach and he is very clear about the process and the kind of hockey he expects from his players. I expect India to be as competitive as always," said Caldas, who is from Argentina.
Like many other teams taking part in the Pro League, Caldas also believes that competing here is a good preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
"The players and combinations we wanted to test were experimented during the previous edition of Pro League. This edition we will have our most competitive team as this will be a stepping stone ahead of Tokyo," he said.
He, however, added that they need to be cautious in planning the next six months to ensure their players are in the best shape.
"It is very difficult for us as we will need to plan club hockey as well which is very important. Some of the players may not be with us during that time, so we need to make sure we utilise their time. At the same time we also have to make sure they are fresh for club matches as the matches there will be high-level too," Caldas said.
"In that sense, we will be planning cautiously and managing players load. We will monitor the players in the right way physically and mentally so that they are at their best shape," he concluded.