PKL 8: Race for playoffs spots intensifies on Triple Panga Saturday

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Dabang Delhi K.C, U Mumba, Bengal Warriors and Tamil Thalaivas will be among the teams in action on Saturday that are involved in an intense race for playoff spots in Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Season 8.

Debang Delhi will lock horns with Tamil Thalaivas on Saturday in the first match of the night at the Sheraton Grand, Whitefield, here. Naveen Kumar showed everyone that he is back to his full fitness with a Super 10 in Delhi’s previous outing and will be eyeing a chance to exploit the inconsistencies creeping into the Thalaivas’ defence.

The second match of the night will see U Mumba take on Bengal Warriors. Defending champions Bengal’s chances of making it to the playoffs are less but they would certainly not want to go down without a fight. U Mumba have endured a mixed campaign with their usually reliable left corner Fazel Atrachali not scaling his meteoric heights.

The last game of the night will feature bottom dwellers Telugu Titans and coach Anup Kumar’s young Puneri Paltan. The team from Pune will be the favourites to win the match based on form. But fatigue might play a factor with Pune playing their third game in as many days.

The match between Tamil Thalaivas and Dabang Delhi might well be decided by two of the best youngsters in kabaddi. Delhi’s Naveen Kumar is a right raider and Thalaivas’ Sagar is a right corner defender so both these athletes might not go face-to-face in the match, but the team’s fortunes largely revolve around these two individuals.

Thalaivas’ raiding combination of Manjeet and Ajinkya Pawar doesn’t have the same multi-point ammunition as Bulls’ Pawan Sehrawat or Bengal’s Maninder Singh. They are consistent and will take the bonus points on offer but will not offer quick elimination of the opponents from the mat. Therefore, it is vital for the Thalaivas to be aggressive in their defence. Sagar, captain Surjeet Singh and the other defenders will need to take a risky approach and trust their skills against Delhi’s raiding unit.

In Naveen Kumar, they will be facing the league’s most complete raider. He has been making a slow comeback after a knee injury but showed he hasn’t lost his attacking edge against the Warriors. If Delhi can revive Naveen quickly through the likes of Vijay and Ashu Malik, they will certainly improve their chances of victory.

Fazel Atrachali is arguably the best captain in PKL, capable of marshalling his troops and getting the best out of them. But Atrachali, the left corner defender has struggled in Mumbai’s recent outings. The pressure of captaincy has perhaps taken the focus away from his trademark ankle holds. But U Mumba will need both sides of Fazel — the leader and the defender — when they face Bengal Warriors.

Defending champions Bengal still have an outside chance of qualifying for the playoffs. Maninder Singh scored a massive Super 10 against Delhi in the Warriors’ previous outing and will once again be their key weapon.

Mumbai also need the win to be in the reckoning for a playoff spot which should lead to an intense game of kabaddi. Bengal’s over-reliance on Maninder Singh should be what Mumbai aim to exploit – tackle him successfully and then attack the other end with raiders, Abhishek Singh and Ajith Kumar.

Telugu Titans will try to salvage some lost pride in the third match on Saturday. They became the first team to get eliminated from the playoff race, but they will know they can change the fate of other teams.

Pune will be playing their third match in three consecutive days which should give Titans an edge. Their biggest task will be to neutralise the raiding unit of Pune featuring Aslam Inamdar, Mohit Goyat and Nitin Tomar.

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