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Hyderabad, February 6, 2020
The league stage of Star Sports Premier Badminton League (PBL) is all set to end on a high with a blockbuster final game between defending champions Bengaluru Raptors and Awadhe Warriors at the GMC Balayogi Sats Indoor Stadium here today.
With the North Eastern Warriors, the Chennai Superstarz and Pune 7 Aces having confirmed their places in the semi-finals, the fourth spot is still up for grabs. Bengaluru remains at an advantage as of now with 17 points in the bag that separates them from the fifth-placed Awadhe Warriors by three points.
However, the Lucknow-based franchise can still sneak into the last-four with a big win over Bengaluru. It won't be easy, however, as the Raptors are coming off a 5-0 demolition of the Mumbai Rockets. While World No. 2 Tai Tzu Ying has been their talisman and has remained unbeaten so far, it is Sai Praneeth who played a pivotal role in their win.
Showing nerves of steel, the World Championships bronze medallist edged 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap in a tense and thrilling encounter that ended 15-14, 14-15, 15-14 in Sai's favour. Ahead of their last league game, such a display under pressure is an absolute confidence booster both for the World No. 11 as well as his team.
Brice Leverdez also has been impressive in his last couple of matches while the mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Eom Hye Won clicked once again.
As for Awadhe, the Hyderabad leg hasn't gone the way they would have liked. They are yet to win a match in this city. They succumbed to a narrow 3-4 defeat to Chennai Superstarz and got pumelled 1-4 by the high-flying Pune 7 Aces in their most recent tie.
Losing the Trump cost them dearly and World No. 14 Beiwen Zhang would be trying her best to bounce back and make amends. With Tai Tzu Ying being on the opposite side, the job is easier said than done.
The Warriors also need their mixed doubles pair of Christinna Pedersen and Ivan Sozonov and their men's singles players to step up. Ajay Jayaram did emerge victorious but he also needs support from the likes of Subhankar Dey and Wong Wing Ki Vincent.
World No. 24 men's doubles pair of Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol snapped the winning streak of Pune's Hendra Setiawan and Chirag Shetty and they would look to bring that same confidence and conviction against the Bengaluru Raptors too.