Ranchi: Ever-improving Ranchi Rhinos would be hoping to hand table-toppers Delhi Waveriders their first defeat in the tournament when both the teams clash against each other for the third and final time in the round-robin stage of the inaugural Hockey India League here on Friday.
The top two teams in standings have so far played two exciting matches with Delhi winning the first encounter 5-4 here, while the Rhinos came back from a goal down to hold the Waveriders to a 2-2 draw in their second meeting in Delhi last night.
The Rhinos are now keen to settle the score after having come close to a win on Wednesday. After eight matches, the Waveriders lead the standings with 34 points and are currently the only unbeaten team in the competition. The Rhinos, with five wins, a draw and two loses, are placed second with 29 points.
If the Rhinos manage to win Friday's tie by at least a four-goal margin then they can leapfrog the Waveriders to the top spot on better goal-difference. However, going by the form and performance of the Waveriders so far in the tournament, the hosts would be satisfied with only a win on Friday.
The Rhinos strive on their home support and only the Waveriders have so far managed to breach their citadel. Just like the Waveriders, the Rhinos have also been in exceptional form in their last four encounters and would take confidence from the fact that they could pressurise the league leaders on counter attacks.
Rhinos' striker Mandeep Singh is currently the second highest goal scorer in the tournament and is the only one in the top five to have all field goals to his credit.
Come Friday, Mandeep will be keen to add to his tally and so would be their penalty corner specialist Ashley Jackson. "We played well yesterday and would look to repeat yesterday's performance. We plan on improving certain aspects that we took back from yesterday's game. We will definitely give them a tough challenge tomorrow," Rhinos coach Gregg Clark said on the eve of the game.
The Waveriders coach A K Bansal, however, is confident about his team's performance against the Rhinos on Friday. "We plan to work on some quick passes and team coordination strategy for tomorrow's match. We have a strong team and we plan to use that against them. Birendra Lakra is one of their game makers and we will look out for him," he said.