The league stage of VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 5 is done and dusted and it’s time to look ahead to the playoffs starting on Monday at the DOME@NSCI SVP Stadium in Mumbai. It begins with two eliminators where the second and third-placed teams from Zone A and Zone B lock horns to seek entry into Eliminator 3, the winner of which will play the Qualifier 2. Zone A and B’s runner-ups Puneri Paltan and Patna Pirates meet third-placed teams U.P. Yoddha and Haryana Steelers respectively. A defeat today will bring down the curtain for the losing teams. Here’s the lowdown on how the teams stack up against each other. 

Eliminator 1: Puneri Paltan vs U.P. Yoddha

Head-to-head: Puneri Paltan 1-0 U.P. Yoddha

After missing out on the Zone A top spot by a whisker, the Paltan will enter the eliminator with a foolproof plan, leaving no scope for silly errors. The Paltan are in crisp form and have one of the strongest defences this season, with the team averaging 11.05 tackle points per match. With the inclusion of the back-from-injury duo of Sandeep Narwal and Girish Maruti Ernak, Pune will be itching to go. Even though they can boast of having the best do-or-die raiding unit this season as both Deepak Hooda and Rajesh Mondal feature in the top three do-or-die raiders’ list, it can’t be denied that there is an over-reliance on skipper Hooda. Whenever he has failed to fire, Pune have suffered and he will surely feature as the top target on the Yoddha’s list.

U.P. Yoddha, on the other hand, need to put behind their 40-point loss they suffered at the hands of Bengaluru Bulls in their last league-stage match. Though they fielded a second-string side, the weakness in the bench strength was heavily exposed. They boast of the second best raiding unit in the league with both captain Nitin Tomar and Rishank Devadiga in brisk form. The match will see the return of Tomar, who was sidelined due to illness in the last few matches. However, the defence has been comparatively inferior, holding the second-worst tackle strike rate of 36.48 this season. Rajesh Narwal has been abysmal while Jeeva Kumar is yet to reach top form. The other youngsters have pitched in from time to time but over-reliance on the offence is evident, a factor that Pune will sure look to exploit.

Khel Kabaddi Khiladi: 

Deepak Hooda

The Paltan captain has been the backbone of the team this entire season and has single-handedly led Pune’s attack. If he can be tamed, Pune will be in the soup but with an inconsistent defence lined up against him on Monday, Hooda will fancy himself to make merry. 

Rishank Devadiga

Rishank Devadiga is in great form and has seen his team through in the latter stages in Tomar’s absence. Now that Tomar return which takes a lot of pressure off him, expect Devadiga to wreak havoc if not checked by Pune early on.

Eliminator 2: Patna Pirates vs Haryana Steelers

Head-to-head: 1 tie

The defending champions are recently on a poor run, failing to secure a win in their last four encounters and need to turn things around to get their confidence back. Patna boast of the league’s most valuable player Pardeep Narwal who has been on a record-breaking spree this season. With a record 274 points in his bag and Monu Goyat (the second best do-or-die raider this season) by his side, Patna have the best raiding unit averaging 23.8 points per match. However, the point of worry which has not failed to leave Patna side this entire season is their lacklustre defence. Both seasoned defenders Vishal Mane and Sachin Shingade have been highly inconsistent and the coach has made his discontent clear several times already. Patna’s formidable offence may do their task well but the defence has to aid them ably to secure a win against a team who relies on their solid defence.

Haryana Steelers, meanwhile, were touted to be a defensive powerhouse and they have proved to be just that. They boast of the best defender in the form of captain Surender Nada and the best corner combination this season. Nada and Mohit Chhillar share a mammoth 118 tackle points between them. However, the covers have failed to match their corners’ class and are presently a weak link which the opponents can exploit. Compared to the defence, the raiding prowess also has not been very assertive. The Steelers do have a number of raiders in their ranks who are in good form but the injury-forced absence of promising youngster Vikas Kandola has hurt them badly. Wazir Singh and Deepak Kumar Dahiya need to be on top of their game today if Haryana are to upstage the defending champions.

Khel Kabaddi Khiladi:

Pardeep Narwal

The man every opposing team and coach have been wary of this season is the ruthless Pardeep Narwal, who has unlocked defences at will. He has promised to cross 300 points this season and for that Patna need to win today as a defeat will result in egress for them from the league. 

Surender Nada

When the best defender is slated to meet the best raider of the season, sparks are sure to fly. With 79 tackle points and 9 High 5s under his belt, Nada, a master ankle-holder, could prove to be Patna’s biggest nemesis.   

Catch the action live on the Star Sports network and hotstar from 7.30 pm onwards.