Bengaluru Bulls started the season in red-hot form.
Puneri Paltan will lock horns with U.P. Yoddha on Monday (February 21st) in the first Eliminator match of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Season 8. Pune clinched the sixth position on the table with a last-day victory against Playoff rivals Jaipur Pink Panthers and will be looking to carry that momentum into the Eliminator phase. U.P. Yoddha won’t be easy pushovers having registered a third-place with a nearly-flawless end to the league stages.
Pardeep Narwal and Surender Gill have led the Yoddha attack efficiently and they will be keen on clinching a win that will set up a semi-final date with league-toppers Patna Pirates.
The second Eliminator match of the night will feature Gujarat Giants and Bengaluru Bulls – teams who finished 4th and 5th in the league respectively. The Giants have the momentum in their favour with their defence finding form in the most crucial stage of the tournament but will face an inspired Bengaluru buoyed by the performance of their star raider Pawan Sehrawat.
Eliminator 1: U.P Yoddha vs Puneri Paltan
The two teams have arguably the most in-form squads in PKL 8. Both started the season sluggishly but picked up steam in the latter half. The return of form for Pardeep Narwal has been the backbone of Yoddha’s success. The Record Breaker’ has reminded the kabaddi fraternity of his brilliant raiding skills in the recent matches. Surender Gill’s role as the second raider is often understated. He has a very good strike rate and was U.P.’s saviour in the initial stages of the tournament. Together they will be keen to attack Pune right from the first whistle.
The match has all the chances of being a raid-fest. Just like Yoddha, Pune often resorts to a two-headed attacking strategy through their brilliant youngsters Aslam Inamdar and Mohit Goyat. Their left-right combination has made lives difficult for most defences in the league. The teams had a 1-1 head-to-head in the league stages but most importantly, both matches were high scoring affairs.
Yoddha won the first match 50-40 while Pune clinched the second 44-38. The defences will certainly need to be switched on against the potent attacks. Pune’s Sombir picked up a blow to the eye in their latest outing which could hamper his preparations. U.P. will be hoping their much-famed corner combination of Nitesh Kumar and Sumit has a perfect night on the mat. The winners of the match will face Patna Pirates in the semifinal.
Eliminator 2: Gujarat Giants vs Bengaluru Bulls
Bengaluru Bulls started the PKL season 8 in red-hot form but suffered a poor run in the second half. In Gujarat, they face a team that had the exact opposite path to the playoffs. They had a slow start but won 7 out of their last 11 matches to make it to the eliminators. Gujarat’s good run was powered by their experienced defence.
The likes of Girish Ernak, Parvesh Bhainswal and Sunil Kumar have impressed in the recent matches and will be looking to once again marshal the defence. The Giants rely on their defensive stability – if they don’t leak points, they usually win. Coach Manpreet Singh will know that the key to Gujarat’s success will be stopping ‘High-Flyer’ Pawan Sehrawat. The Bulls have a tendency to be over-reliant on their captain for the raid points and often struggle when he is not on the mat.
Luckily for the Bulls, their secondary raider Bharat has looked excellent in the second half of the season. His emergence as a brilliant all-rounder will also allow coach Randhir Singh to switch tactics easily – from playing the third raider Chandran Ranjit to defensive stability with all-rounder G.B. More. Rakesh S was brilliant in Gujarat’s win against U Mumba, and they will once again be hoping he can provide the magic in the attack.
The teams had a 1-1 head-to-head in the league stages with the Bulls winning the first. Bengaluru’s defence will need to be mistake-free to allow their raiders to do the work at the other end. The winner will play Dabang Delhi K.C. in the semi-finals.