The fifth season of Pro Kabaddi will begin from where it stopped last time. Quite literally. Having hosted the final leg of last season, Hyderabad will kickstart matters in the new three-month long season this time around.
The Gachibowli Indoor stadium will play host to the fist leg of the fifth season from 28 July-3 August. The opening phase will see the four new teams making their debut with the Tamil Thalaivas being the first ones to take that honour when they clash with hosts Telugu Titans in the season opener.
Haryana Steelers will start on Sunday when they face former champions U Mumba, while Gujarat Fortunegiants, led by former Telugu Titans' player Sukesh Hegde will make their debut against Dabang Delhi on Monday.
UP Yoddhas will have to wait the longest to play their first match, as Tuesday will see them taking on Telugu Titans.
However, all eyes will be on Rahul Chaudhari and Co, who will look to begin with a bang. That's the only way they know it.
Telugu Titans eye quick start
The Titans have been one of the most entertaining sides in the league so far, but apart from that, they have nothing else to show. The team has never played in a final before, and the franchise with a huge fan base will be looking to change that.
Playing the home leg first up has its own advantages. Three out of the four teams that have played their first legs at home have gone on to make the play-offs. In home legs, the home team plays everyday and it's best to have the matches coming thick and fast when the team is fresh.
Moreover, it gives the home team a chance to make a flying start and take the momentum into further matches.
Unfortunately, Telugu Titans are the only team to have not made the semi-finals after playing the first leg at home. That leg however was played at Vizag, and the Titans will be hoping to make the most of it this time around.
They couldn't have hoped for a better opponent than the Thaliavas for the opening match. The Chennai outfit is playing its first season and is a team of youngsters with few experienced players. Rahul Chaudhari and and his team will look to take the attack to them as they so often do on home turf.
The biggest games for the Titans will be the twin clashes with Patna Pirates. The defending champions are Titans' main rival in Zone B and playing twice at home in the initial week presents them with a chance to build an advantage over them straight away.
The Titans will hope that addition of Rakesh Kumar will add the necessary calm to the raw aggression that's so typically associated with the Titans. Blessed with quite a few quality players, a strong first leg will be very key for them.
The Hyderbad side have won 50 percent (9/18) of their home matches, losing six while three have ended in a tie.
Sukesh Hegde, a former Titans star will make a comeback to Hyderabad, this time as a captain of a new franchise Gujarat Fortunegiants. He will be specially motivated to prove a point or two to the local fans who never rated him at par with Chaudhari. Although, Hegde won't come up against his former club, he will love to get Gujarat off to a winning start in the two matches they play in Hyderabad.
K Prapanjan will also face his former side in the season opener as he takes to the mat for the Thalaivas. A day later, Mohammad Magsoudlou will look to upset the fans that once cheered for him when his new team Patna take on the Titans.
Puneri Paltan features three former Titans stars in Deepak Hooda, Dharmaraj Cheralathan and Sandeep Narwal. While Sandeep and Cheralathan played for Hyderabad for just one season, Deepak was a big part of the first two campaigns. The crowd will be eager to weave his magic at the venue once again, as just like Hegde, he will lead his side out.
Marquee clashes and schedule
There are several mouth-watering clashes, but the season opener between Titans and Thalaivas may become a start of a new rivalry. The Titans have enjoyed much of the support from Tamil Nadu before the Thalaivas arrived, and it will be interesting how the local fans in Hyderabad respond to the newcomers, especially considering it will be the first match of the season.
The next big one follows right after as Maharashtrian rivals U Mumba and Puneri Paltan clash. The two teams have produced some of the best matches in the last two seasons so one can expect another blockbuster. The Mumbai side have enjoyed a clear edge over their rivals winning 7 out of the 8 matches played among the two. However, with Pune getting stronger with every season, the balance may just be about to shift.
The Titans will clash with Patna twice in the first leg and these two matches could be crucial in determining who finishes in the top three. With Pardeep Narwal and Chaudhari on the same mat, it's going to be exciting. In the nine matches played between them so far the Titans have won six, while Patna have also emerged victorious six times.
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Updated Date: Jul 28, 2017 17:00:48 IST