The loser will go home and the winner will meet RCB for a place in the final.
Mumbai: Unlike the first Indian Premier League qualifier, there is no second chance on offer for Mumbai Indians (MI) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Eliminator at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday, where Sachin Tendulkar's men will plan an encore against Gautam Gambhir's brigade.
First time in the knockout phase of the IPL, Kolkata were handed a head-in-hands last-ball defeat by Mumbai in their last league encounter, which not only sunk KKR's dream of finishing second but also saw MI leapfrogging them to the third position.
Laxmipathy Balaji was hit for 23 runs in the last over, including a last-ball six by Ambati Rayudu. However, he needs to get his act together for the virtual quarterfinal, with the winner of the match taking on Royal Challengers Bangalore in Qualifier 2 for a place in the final against Chennai Super Kings.
The fourth season of the IPL has been a cock and bull story for the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise and Gambhir must take the surprise loss as a reality check and be ready lock, stock and barrel on Wednesday.
Their batting revolves around Jacques Kallis, who has given a fitting reply to those discarding him for the T20 format. The South African has notched up 417 runs in the league phase. Besides the world's best all-rounder, Manoj Tiwary and skipper Gambhir add meat to Kolkata's willow.
One of the most expensive buys in the players' auction, Yusuf Pathan has failed to deliver for his new owner but is still somebody Mumbai should be wary of.
KKR bank heavily on spinners and for the most part on Iqbal Abdullah, who has been one of the finds of the tournament with 16 wickets. He has been ably supported by Pathan's off-spin that has fetched the all-rounder 13 wickets.
The worry, though, lays with the pacers, who not only have been expensive but have also leaked runs alarmingly, especially Balaji and Jaidev Unadkat. Brett Lee was suppose to spearhead their attack but the veteran Aussie has disappointed with his thin tally of just four wickets in 11 matches.
And with the red sand of the Wankhede track expected to offer turn, KKR will once again rely heavily on their spinners to get wickets and keep a lid on scoring.
Tendulkar's worry, on the other hand, lies in whom to ask to accompany him at the top of the innings. While Davy Jacobs (out with a broken thumb) looked the best bet, none of the five batsmen Mumbai have tried yielded the desired results.
In light of Kieron Pollard and Andrew Symond's failures, Mumbai's highest run-getter (477) Tendulkar and the middle order comprising of Rayudu and Rohit Sharma will once again have to shoulder the run-scoring responsibility.
Pollard's game-changing prowess should help him retain his place but Symonds may continue to sit out as New Zealander James Franklin's 45 not out in 23 balls in the match against Kolkata, coupled with his seam-up bowling, lends Mumbai better balance.
On the bowling front, this edition's leading wicket-taker (27) Lasith Malinga will remain the biggest threat for Kolkata. Munaf Patel's World Cup-winning confidence has also shone in the tournament with 17 wickets, making his impeccable line and length an ideal foil for Malinga's yorkers.
Mumbai's bowling woes lie in Harbhajan Singh's inconsistent form, which he seems to have carried into the IPL from the World Cup. Tendulkar will surely want more from his India teammate against the likes of Kallis, Gambhir, Tiwary and Pathan.
And with the Bengal tigers wounded after the narrow loss to Mumbai, Tendulkar will have to guard against a possible backlash as the loser crashes out of the tournament.