Even a win might not be sufficient for Bengaluru to qualify for the Playoffs. 

U Mumba will battle for a place in Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Season 8 Playoffs against U.P. Yoddha on Thursday (February 17th). The Season 2 champions need a minimum of two victories to stay in the race for a place in the eliminators. U.P. Yoddha, who will be playing their final match of the season, have fate in their own hands. A victory should be enough to seal their progress to the knockout stages.

The second match of the night will see another Playoff battle between Bengaluru Bulls and Haryana Steelers. Haryana can also almost guarantee a Playoff spot with a win but Bengaluru’s destiny will be decided by the teams around them. 

The final match of the night will feature the top 2 teams of PKL 8. Patna have already sealed the top spot, but Delhi will need a victory to stop the likes of Haryana and Yoddha from leapfrogging them on the table.

Mumbai need a perfect finish

Both U.P. and Mumbai split the points in an entertaining 28-28 tie when the teams met earlier in PKL 8. But nothing short of a victory will keep Mumbai’s Playoff chances alive. Fazel Atrachali and his men will therefore need to bring their perfect game to the mat – something that has been missing in their previous two matches. Their lead raider Abhishek Singh struggled, especially in Super Tackle situations, in their outing against Jaipur Pink Panthers and it might be time for the team to give Ajith Kumar a bigger role. Shivam has also looked lively on the mat and must be used as an impact substitute.

The ‘Record Breaker’ Pardeep Narwal has been in red-hot form for Yoddha. He will be their primary raider with Surender Gill and Shrikant Jadhav supporting. Mumbai’s raiders do not get multi-point raids which means their defence will need to take an aggressive approach to inflict ALL OUTs. Mumbai must approach the mat with positive intent and attack Pardeep from the first whistle. They must not show the respect they had for Arjun Deshwal against Jaipur – Mumbai had just 2 successful tackles in the first half which led to their downfall.

Steelers eye 2nd place

With 63 points from 20 matches, Haryana Steelers have a realistic chance of a second-place in PKL 8 if Delhi (2nd on the table) drop points. They are currently third on the table and a Top 2 finish can save them from the eliminator matches. In captain Vikash Kandola, they have a balanced raider who will know how to exploit the weaknesses in Bengaluru’s defence. Their defensive cover combination of Jaideep and Mohit has also been impressive and will look forward to a chance of stopping the league’s best raider Pawan Sehrawat.

Even a win might not be sufficient for Bengaluru to qualify for the Playoffs. But all they can do is clinch a big win against the Steelers and hope other results go in their favour. The key to the match will be Bharat and Chandran Ranjit. Bengaluru’s support raiders have picked up some form in the recent matches and will need to share the burden with their captain Pawan. Haryana’s weakness has been the corners. Surender Nada has endured a stop-start campaign in the left while the right corner position has been feeble with Ravi Kumar usually manning it.

The best of Season 8

Dabang Delhi will want to ensure they clinch a second-place finish to the PKL 8. They have dipped in form and consistency ever since Naveen Kumar picked up a knee injury mid-season. If it weren’t for their 7-match unbeaten start to the season, they might not even be in the reckoning for a Top 2 finish. Judging by form, a lot of teams below them on the table, like the Steelers and Yoddha, can beat them.

Therefore, it is important they avoid entering the eliminators. It will also help them give Naveen Kumar some recovery time. The star raider has been playing with a few niggles and a few days of rest will do him good.

Patna won’t be an easy opponent, however. Their immense squad depth means even a much-changed team could trouble Delhi on the night. Mohammadreza Shadloui has been a force to reckon with in the left corner while Sachin and Guman Singh have dominated the raiding department. Delhi’s experienced stars such as Manjeet Chhillar and Joginder Narwal will need a flawless performance to ensure their team stays on course for a top 2 finish.

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