The winners from Eliminator 1 and 2 – Puneri Paltan and Patna Pirates - lock horns at Mumbai’s Dome@NSCI SVP Stadium on Tuesday in Eliminator 3 in their bid to enter Qualifier 2 for a shot at the final. But before that happens, both zone toppers - Gujarat Fortunegiants and Bengal Warriors – will fight it out for direct entry into the final. The losing team, however, will get another shot in Qualifier 2, where they will meet the winners of Eliminator 3. Here’s the lowdown on how the teams stack up against each other.
Qualifier 1 - Gujarat Fortunegiants vs Bengal Warriors
Head-to-head: 1 tie
Gujarat have been touted as the favourites to win the title this season as both the offence and defence have combined beautifully to emerge as a formidable unit. Gujarat boast of having the best cover combination in the form of Sunil Kumar and Parvesh Bhainswal this season, alongside the second-best corner combination in Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani. It’s the only team to have started every single match with the same four defenders, and coach Manpreet Singh’s strategy of sticking to the winning combination has worked wonders for the debutants. Sachin has been a complete revelation and features in the top 10 raiders’ list of the season. He will be a handful for the Warriors defence alongside the likes of Sukesh Hegde and Chandran Ranjit.
On the other hand, Bengal Warriors have been beaten just once in their last nine encounters and has the winning momentum on their side. The biggest advantage of the team is their experience of playing in crunch situations as most of their league-stage matches were won in the last five minutes or so after they forged unbelievable comebacks. Warriors captain Surjeet Singh is the best cover defender and the second-best overall defender this season and will be assisted by Ran Singh who needs to come out of his recent slump in form. The raiding department is at its finest led by the effervescent Maninder Singh, who is in the form of his life. Supporting him are Jang Kun Lee and Deepak Narwal, both of whom can inflict serious damage. However, the Warriors have lacked prowess during do-or-die situations, an area Gujarat’s experienced defence will look to exploit.
Khel Kabaddi Khiladi
Mighani is Gujarat’s leading defender with 60 points and often takes out opposition defenders with solid ankle or thigh holds. His timing is another asset that is likely to stand Gujarat in good stead.
Maninder Singh has been priceless for the Warriors this season and the biggest threat to their opponents. His speed, strength and nimble feet will, however, be tested against a mighty Gujarat defence.
Eliminator 3 - Puneri Paltan vs Patna Pirates
Head-to-head: Puneri Paltan 1-8 Patna Pirates (2 ties)
Pune’s spirits will be high after an inspiring comeback against U.P. Yoddha on Monday, where they cruised past the opponents with just seconds remaining on the clock. Deepak Hooda was the star of the match but the defence again showed why they are one of the strongest units in the league with both Girish Maruti Ernak and Akshay Jadhav picking up High 5s. However, against a menacing Patna offence in an eliminator, the defence faces its toughest challenge yet to fend off Pardeep Narwal and Monu Goyat’s advances.
On the other hand, Patna’s total annihilation of Haryana Steelers on Monday ensures they enter the match as the favourites to win. Pardeep is in ominous form and heavily charged up after breaking a series of records against the Steelers. Another good news for the defending champions is the return to form of their defence. After throttling Haryana’s attempts comfortably, they will be high on confidence to take on Hooda’s men.
Khel Kabaddi Khiladi
The captain still remains the main man on the mat for the Paltan. His presence reassures the entire team and his ability to pull off successful raids during high-pressure situations is a boon. He led Pune’s comeback against Lucknow and is sure to give his best against Patna’s defence.
The man who is capable of single-handedly winning matches is back to his devastating best. A record 34 raid points against Haryana will give Pardeep enough confidence to go all out against another solid defensive unit and maybe break some more records in the process.
Catch the action live on the Star Sports network and hotstar from 7.30 pm onwards.