Delhi Waveriders will aim to continue their winning spree in their bid to push for a spot in the semi-finals when they take on table toppers Dabang Mumbai in the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) at the Shivaji stadium here on Wednesday.
The visitors, led by German forward Florian Fuchs, will play freely as they are already through to the knock-out stages for the first time in HIL. However, securing the top spot till the end of the league stage will be on coach Jay Stacy’s mind.
On the other hand, Waveriders will go into the game riding high on the confidence they have gained from the two successive wins against Uttar Pradesh Wizards (8-1) and Kalinga Lancers (6-4).
When the two teams met earlier in Mumbai, the home team scored a narrow 3-2 win with Affan Yousuf scoring twice, while Waveriders’ goals came from penalty corners converted by star drag-flickers Rupinder Pal Singh and Justin Reid-Ross.
Commenting on the upcoming game, Delhi skipper Rupinder said: “We have four more games left in the league and the one against Dabang Mumbai will be a good game and a win will keep our chances of making the semis intact.”
“They are a tough team to beat and they have good results so far and one of their major plus point is their ability to comeback from a goal deficit to win matches,” Rupinder added.
He also said that the two consecutive wins have given his team the much-needed confidence.
“I think we did very well in the past two games and that’s given the team a lot of confidence. We were very strong in our defence against Kalinga Lancers which I think was a key factor in our win.”
“We have a specific plan against Dabang Mumbai and I am confident the team will execute it, play to the home advantage and make opportunities count,” the drag flick expert added.
Meanwhile, visiting skipper Fuchs was confident about the match and said that the team will go into the match with all guns blazing.
“Last year, we missed making the semi-final by goal difference and that was a heartbreak. This year, it was our clear goal to reach the semi-finals. We see the next two matches as a platform to improve and get sharper for the weekend in Chandigarh,” Fuchs said.
“Since we have almost made it to the semi-finals already, we will play freely and with less pressure but having said that, we want to win those two games,” asserted the skipper, who has registered eight goals against his name in the league so far.
The German forward insisted that his team has made great progress this year compared to last year and one of their key strengths has been the team’s ability to come back in crucial games.
“We have made big development through the season and have created a lot of chances. Defensively also we have done well and everyone is happy and upbeat,” the German 2012 Olympic champion said.
“We did well at the start of the league, getting some good wins and the U-21 World Cup players coming in fresh from the tournament and some new international recruits have taken our overall performance to a new level.”
He added, “How we came back in games has given us a lot of confidence and belief in the team’s strength and we would like to preserve it for the Finals weekend.”
Commenting about their chances against Waveriders, Fuchs said that the home team will be on a high from their previous wins.
“They have won their last two matches and are definitely on a high. They are playing much better hockey than the beginning and they will put pressure on us and I will it will be an open game. While we are fit and sharp they are mentally tough,” Fuchs stated.