Last season's losing finalists Bengaluru Raptors face a tough challenge in their first home match as they meet two-time runners-up Mumbai Rockets in the Premier Badminton League 2018-19 (PBL 2018-19) at the Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday. With a shot at a semi-final berth, the fifth-placed Raptors would have to go all out against their third-placed opponents.
The Raptors need a minimum of four points to draw level with the PBL 2018-19 debutants Pune 7 Aces, the current No. 4 team on the leaderboard. With the advantage of one more match in their hands, Bengaluru can easily sniff a last-four spot if they can play to their potential.
But before they can even dream of it, their first challenge is to make a dent in the confidence level of the high-flying Mumbai Rockets on Tuesday.
For Bengaluru, their skipper and icon player Kidambi Srikanth has to deliver. The former World No. 1 has so far been highly impressive and has remained unbeaten in four outings.
With the kind of brutal form he has shown at the PBL this season, he should be expected to score a big win over the 18th ranked Anders Antonsen of Mumbai. That said, Antonsen displayed a lot of maturity in his upset win over the former World No. 1 Son Wan Ho, and Srikanth simply can't afford to underestimate him.
Sameer Verma is the other Indian men's singles player who has been dominant in this season of the PBL. With five wins on the trot, he has clearly been the best Indian shuttler so far in Season 4.
Verma is simply continuing from where he left off in Guangzhou at the BWF World Tour Finals. His presence has been one of the biggest reasons why Mumbai have won three out of their five matches, that includes a thumping 5-0 drubbing of the Chennai Smashers in their last match.
A showdown with his Pullela Gopichand Academy training partner Sai Praneeth would be one mouthwatering encounter to watch. Unless Sameer feels tired after his exploits, he should be able to come through this match.
None of the two teams can boast of top 20 names in the women's singles department. While Mumbai have rising Indian stars in Shreyanshi Pardeshi and Anura Prabhudesai, the Bengaluru brigade have the 59th ranked Vu Thi Trang of Vietnam. With the latter having more experience, she should have the edge.
It's the doubles section that should make all the difference. Bengaluru have been heavily relying on former men's doubles world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan. But with the legendary Lee Yong Dae being in the Mumbai squad along with Kim Gi Jung, things could get tricky.
Bengaluru's mixed doubles pair of Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith accomplished a lot last year with a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games chief among them. However, they just haven't been able to click in PBL4 and have remained winless so far.
If they can't find their chemistry even in this face-off, Mumbai's Pia Zebadiah and Kim Gi Jung will have an advantage.
Here’s all the information you need to know about the PBL encounter:
Tournament name: Premier Badminton League Season 4
Venue: Kanteerava Indoor Stadium, Bengaluru
Date: Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Time: 7 pm IST
Head-to-head: Mumbai lead 2-1
Channel: Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD
Live streaming: hotstar.com