Punjab Warriors will look to bank on its good form in the league stage when it takes on defending champion Ranchi Rhinos in the semifinals of the Hockey India League at the Astroturf Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.
Delhi Waveriders will square up against Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the other semifinal.
Warriors, which topped the league standings with seven wins, two draws and just one loss, has been the most consistent performer in the league.
After losing both matches in the elimination stage (the semifinals and third place play-off) last season and finishing fourth, Warriors will be eager to turn things around.
“We began the league better than last year and will try to bring that form into the semifinals,” coach Barry Dancer said on the eve of the match.
Warriors have the edge having beaten Rhinos twice in the league engagements.
“Both matches against Rhinos in the league were even, though we bettered them in small details. Hope we are able to maintain this edge,” Dancer said.
With just four wins in the league stage, fourth-placed Rhinos seek to rediscover the form that gave them the title last year. That they have lost their last four outings is something that would worry coach Greg Clarke.
“I am glad all our boys are fit and fully geared up for the semifinals. We will try to play to our strengths. The crowd support has been exceptional and we are looking forward to defending the title on our home turf,” Clarke said.
Waveriders, who took the second spot in the league standings, will aim to realise the right “calibre of hockey” when it meets third-placed Wizards in the first match of the day.
“We expect an even contest and we will focus on giving our best to make a match of it,” said Waveriders coach Cedric D’Souza. Waveriders too will try to carry the form, which saw them notch up seven wins in the league stage, into the elimination stage.
Wizards, who failed to beat Waveriders in the league, will be keen to turn the tide. “The team that plays positively and capitalises on the chances, will march into the final,” said Wizards’ coach Reolant Oltmans.