Record chasing Delhi Waveriders would come across an inspired Uttar Pradesh Wizards in their final league encounter on 7 February, the result of which will also decide the semi-final line-up of the inaugural Hero Hockey India League.
The Waveriders have a golden opportunity to become the first team in the Hero HIL to reach the last four stage without losing a single match and given the form they are in, the record looks a definitely possibility for the league leaders in front of their home crowd at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
However, the Wizards will definitely go all out to end the Waveriders unbeaten run and avoid the leaders in the semi-final.
The Wizards, who are one of the only two teams to have held the Waveriders to a draw in their 11 matches so far, are currently fourth in the standings with 27 points and a victory over the hosts on Thursday could catapult them to the third spot above the Jaypee Punjab Warriors, who completed their league commitments on 29 points with a loss against Waveriders.
That loss has thrown a lifeline to the Wizards and the visitors should play with a carefree approach, having already booked their semi-final berth with a victory over bottom placed Dabur Mumbai Magicians on Tuesday.
However, if the Wizards aim to achieve a first in the competition of beating the Waveriders, they will have to raise their game several notches up. The 1-0 victory over Magicians was hardly a confident showing for the Roelant Oltmans coached side and they can’t afford to waste any chances against the hosts.
It will also be interesting to see whether the Wizards have enough reverses in their tank to keep the pressure on the hosts for the entire 70 minute duration against a team that has made it a habit to punish their opponents by stepping up the pace of the match in the last quarter.
Delhi Waveriders coach AK Bansal said that he will try some junior players in the last league match. "We want to rest some players for the Semi-Final clash and try some young players. We are not taking any pressure as we already are in the Semis and leading the points table," he stated.
Uttar Prdesh Wizards skipper VR Raghunath said that their team will play for victory on Thursday. "It's our last league match. After this, the semis will start. We had a great match on Tuesday and we are looking forward to strike a win tomorrow against Delhi Waveriders," Raghunath added.