Telugu Titans face Tamil Thalaivas and U Mumba take on Puneri Paltan as the much-anticipated fifth edition of VIVO Pro Kabaddi gets underway on Friday.

The fifth season of VIVO Pro Kabaddi is set for a blockbuster start at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on Friday. The eagerly-awaited league is expected to scale unprecedented heights this year having expanded from eight to twelve teams, which will compete over 13 weeks in an intense battle for supremacy. Opening Day will feature two derby matches that will set the tone for the remainder of the season. Here we preview these mouth-watering contests…

Match 1 (Zone B): Telugu Titans vs Tamil Thalaivas

The first match of the season will see newcomers Tamil Thalaivas stepping onto the mat - against Telugu Titans - under the leadership of Ajay Thakur, who was the top raider during India’s 2016 Kabaddi World Cup (KWC) triumph. Another player to watch out for in this contest between the two teams from the south is Amit Hooda, who will be an integral member of the debutants’ defence having ended last season second on the leaderboard for tackle points. Other fringe players to keep an eye on this season are the highly-rated Sombir and K Prapanjan, Anil Kumar and Vijin Thangadurai, who all come with Pro Kabaddi pedigree.

Telugu Titans, on the other hand, will begin their campaign in front of their home crowd high on confidence with a squad full of household names. They will be led by the Raid Machine Rahul Chaudhari, who has been one of the most potent raiders over the past few years, consistently delivering on the mat. The Titans also have the likes of last season’s break-out star Nilesh Salunke, Iran’s World Cup hero Mohsen Maghsoudlou and one of India’s favourite sons Rakesh Kumar in their squad. Furthermore, youngsters Vinoth Kumar and Athul MS will also be looking to make their mark in attack.

Match 2 (Zone A): U Mumba vs Puneri Paltan

Head-to-head: U Mumba 7 – 1 Puneri Paltan

Season 2 champions U Mumba will be hoping to redeem themselves after a below-par last season compared to their lofty standards. Captain Cool Anup Kumar will lead from the front again in a bid to become the first captain to lift the coveted Pro Kabaddi trophy twice. A star-studded squad, U Mumba’s greatest asset is their depth. Besides the obvious threat of Anup, the Ronnie Screwvala-owned franchise also features star raiders like Kashiling Adake, Shabeer Bappu and Nitin Madane in the team. As far as their defence is concerned, Joginder Narwal, D Suresh Kumar, Kuldeep Singh and Iran’s Hadi Oshtorak offer them a variety of options to choose from.

Puneri Paltan, meanwhile, will be looking to set the record straight after back-to-back third-placed finishes in the last two seasons. They are blessed with a strong defence featuring Dharmaraj Cheralathan, Girish Ernak, Ravi Kumar and all-rounders Sandeep Narwal and Deepak Hooda, who will also lead the side. However, their raiders will have to be on top of their game if they are to start their campaign on a promising note against a very powerful rival from the same state of Maharashtra. Rajesh Mondal, who is considered a do-or-die raid specialist, will be their biggest threat in attack, while Narwal and Hooda are also expected to chip in with their fair share of raid points.

You can catch all the action from VIVO Pro Kabaddi LIVE 8:00 PM IST onwards on the Star Sports network and hotstar.