As India celebrates her 70th Independence Day on Tuesday, VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 5 sees the start of the Inter Zone Challenge Week, which means teams from Zone A will square off against teams from Zone B over the next few days for the first time this season. The Arena at Ahmedabad will first play host to an east-meets-west encounter, while the second match of the evening will witness the toppers of Zone A and Zone B locking horns for ultimate supremacy. Here’s a look at today’s battles.

Match 28: Bengal Warriors vs Puneri Paltan

Head-to-head: Bengal Warriors 3-5 Puneri Paltan

Matchday 16 will start with a battle between two equals, one hailing from the east and the other hailing from the west of India. Both Bengal Warriors and Puneri Paltan have played 3 games so far this season, with each winning two and losing one.  

Bengal Warriors, at present, sit fifth in the Zone B points table after tasting defeat in their last match. But the flair with which the Warriors have started their campaign this season should worry their opponents. Jang Kun Lee and Maninder Singh have shown they can rattle any defence. Even Vinod Kumar has been looking in good form and is regularly contributing to the team’s cause.

The defence is manned by the captain himself, Surjeet Singh, perfectly aided by the sturdy Ran Singh, a complete all-rounder by all means. If the Warriors can replicate the performances they showed in their opening two games, they shouldn’t have much difficulty against the Paltan.

Puneri Paltan, on the other hand, sit second in the Zone A points table, behind Gujarat Fortunegiants. Even though they suffered a narrow loss in their last match, the prowess they showed in the first two is enough to put pressure on their opponents. Captain Deepak Hooda and do-or-die raid specialist Rajesh Mondal remain the opposition’s nightmare. And then there is the trio of Dharmaraj Cheralathan, Girish Maruti Ernak and Ravi Kumar in defence to give the Paltan more hope. However, the man the Warriors particularly need to be careful of is all-rounder Sandeep Narwal, whose skills in both attack and defence have been exemplary so far.

Match 29: Gujarat Fortunegiants vs Bengaluru Bulls 

Matchday 16 is the first time that the two sides hailing from the west and south of India will meet each other on the mat. Both Gujarat Fortunegiants and Bengaluru Bulls lead their respective zone’s points table. As the zone-toppers get ready for action, fans can expect plenty of sparks flying.   

One of the four new entrants this season, Gujarat Fortunegiants are in imposing form having registered three straight wins on their home turf. Despite being in action for three successive days, the team has shown no sign of stopping or exhaustion. Captain Sukesh Hegde may not have been able to hit top gear so far but he has ticked most of the boxes, especially in the leadership stakes.

The deathly defensive corner combination of Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani is the best weapon the Fortunegiants have at their disposal. The Iranian duo has held the defence like two solid pegs, aided quite ably by youngsters Parvesh Bhainswal and Sunil Kumar. Last but not least, raider Sachin is in the form of his life and has made a big difference in the Ahmedabad leg. He is another threat looming large for the opposition. Indeed a tough evening awaits their opponents.   

Bengaluru Bulls, meanwhile, had a hard time during their home leg in Nagpur. Their six home matches were laced with three defeats, a tie and two wins. On Tuesday, they would definitely try to win and take the first step towards making up for a very average home leg performance. Captain Rohit Kumar is in great form as his four Super 10s suggest, but needs more support from his fellow raiders. The defence boasts the likes of Ravinder Pahal and Preetam Chhillar but their consistency is a matter of worry. With the crowd totally behind the Fortunegiants on Tuesday, the Bulls will have to be at the top of their game if they are to quieten their opponents and their home support.     

Catch the action live from 8 pm IST onwards on the Star Sports network and hotstar.