HIL: Jaypee Punjab Warriors favourites against Delhi Waveriders in second semifinal
New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS): Jaypee Punjab Warriors will be firm favourites against defending champions Delhi Waveriders in the second semifinal of the Hero Hockey India League (HIL) at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here Saturday.
Warriors have played with their usual aggression and flair to top the pool standings with 35 points. They have defeated Waveriders in two times this season. And the legendary Australian playmaker Jamie Dwyer-led side will look to continue their season's unbeaten record against Sardar Singh-led Waveriders.
Waveriders coach Cedric D' Souza Friday advided his team to not approach the match by past records.
"It will be a tough clash tomorrow as both teams have a lot of strengths. Past performances don't mean anything at this point and it is all about performance on the given day," Cedric said.
"We have done our homework and will do our utmost to follow the plan and win. But it will all boil down to which team can control play and capitalise on the opportunities created."
Warriors will also find losing in the previous season final to Waveriders as a motivation to prevail in the last four clash.
Waveriders, who will look to enter third final, struggled at the start of the six-team tournament, finishing fourth with 25 points, only four clear of Kalinga Lancers.
They managed a draw against Lancers in a away game, and a win at home over sixth placed Dabang Mumbai ensured their entry into the semifinals.
Skipper Sardar has looked slow and tired, while drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh has also been wayward. They will look to seasoned Andy Hayward to show them the way in defence and penalty corner execution.
Steven Edwards, Jason Wilson, Tim Drummond and seasoned Gurbaj Singh will also play a major role at the back. Their German custodian Nicolas Jacobi is back after missing first six matches due to the Indoor World Cup that should ease the pressure on the defenders.
Their strikers -- Akashdeep Singh, Simon child, Lloyd Norris Jones have looked hungry and they need support from Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Yuvraj Walmiki in the crucial clash. They will have an uphill task of going past World Goalkeeper of the Year Jaap Stockmaan.
While Warriors won both their matches against Waveriders in the league phase but the former are aware that against Delhi, it will still not be easy.
"Although we have won all the matches played against Delhi till now, but the challenge is going to be really tough. Our strategy would be to work on our strengths and improve upon the problem areas so as to convert maximum scoring opportunities into goals," Dwyer said.
In the league phase, Barry Dancer-coached Warriors played with a lot of positivity. They looked a side difficult to beat once they get going.
With Sandeep Singh converting the all important penalty corners and evergreen Dywer with his capability of tearing the defence apart, the team needs to start well.
All eyes will be on the speedy striker S.V. Sunil, who makes the defenders difficult to control him.
Warriors depend on Australians Mark Knowles and Christopher Ciriello, Gurmail Singh to give them control at the back. Ciriello also doubles up as a penalty corner specialist along with Sandeep Singh and Kieran Govers.
Australian Rob Hammond, who retired after winning the World Cup 2014, and former Argentina captain Lucas Rey have been performing exceedingly well as holding midfielders.
Attacking link-men Dharamvir Singh and Simon Orchard and Govers, Jake Whetton, Argentine Agustin Mazzilli, Affan Yousuf and Dwyer will take of goal-scoring duties.