After having defeated Ahmedabad Defenders in a rather one-sided affair, table-toppers Kolkata Thunderbolts will now take on Bengaluru Torpedoes in the first semi-final of the second season of RuPay Prime Volleyball League Powered by A23 on Friday, March 3.

The Thunderbolts are the only team this season with a solitary loss. In seven league matches, the Ashwal Rai-led side won six matches and were only beaten by Calicut Heroes.

Bengaluru Torpedoes, on the other hand, needed Kochi Blue Spikers to beat Mumbai Meteors in order to qualify for the playoffs. Either way, they finished fourth in the league standings and will have plenty to look forward to as they have won three of their last five matches.

Interestingly enough though, both Kolkata Thunderbolts and Bengaluru Torpedoes opened their league stage account against each other. On February 4, Kolkata rode on Vinit Kumar’s dominant display to beat Bengaluru 3-2.

On Friday, however, the story is going to be entirely different. This time, there is simply no margin for error as a defeat would mean a direct elimination.

With that being said, let's take a look at three key battles that are expected to define the course of the contest.

Ashwal Rai vs Tsvetelin Tsvetanov

Tsvetelin Tsvetanov has been Bengaluru’s trump card this season. The 25-year-old outside hitter from Bulgaria has tallied 64 points, 55 of which have come in the attack. This puts him level on points with his teammate Ibin Jose. 

Tsvetanov has been at the forefront of Bengaluru’s every attacking move this season which puts Kolkata Thunderbolts captain Ashwal Rai in a rather difficult situation. Make no mistake, however, as 30-year-old Rai has been one of the finest blockers in the league. 

In seven outings, the Kolkata skipper has tallied an impressive 18 points while blocking which is, in fact, the third-best return so far. More importantly, he is averaging 2.57 block points per game, meaning that if Tsvetanov wants to improve his numbers, he will need to come up with a different plan.

Vinit Kumar vs Ibin Jose

The battle of two universals was narrowly won by Vinit Kumar the last time Kolkata Thunderbolts and Bengaluru Torpedoes crossed paths. In a game that saw Kolkata being their usual self in the early part of the contest, Vinit ended his night with 13 individual points while Ibin accumulated 12.

What differentiated the two, however, was the fact that all of Vinit’s 13 points came in the attack while Ibin, on his part, was largely true to his position as his bifurcation read seven points in attack and five while blocking.

Rahul K vs Midhun Balasubramaniyan

Kolkata Thunderbolts’ Rahul K is averaging 5.57 points in attack this season. But what differentiates the 24-year-old from the rest of his teammates is the fact that he has a success percentage of 14.49 while serving, having tallied a record 10 points from the launch this season. 

Given his efficiency in serving, it goes without saying that Bengaluru Torpedoes’ libero B Midhun will need to be on his toes. Interestingly, though, Midhun’s statistics show he is duly up to the task as his success rate in receiving is an impressive 32.56 percent. What’s more commendable is that he has made just four errors in 83 attempts while receiving.