Mumbai: It's a make-or-break situation for hosts Mumbai Magicians when they take on another struggling outfit Uttar Pradesh Wizards in their penultimate round-robin game in the Hockey India League, here on Tuesday. It's a straight race for the fourth and final semifinal spot between these two teams following the Wizards' 0-3 defeat against high-flying Delhi Waveriders on Sunday at Lucknow.
A loss, which would be their 10th, against the Lucknow franchise would end the Magicians' hopes of reaching the semifinals, while a win would keep them afloat with slim hopes of advancing to the last four at the cost of their UP rivals. While a loss to the Magicians would eliminate them from the four-team competition, a defeat in Tuesday's match would not end the Wizards' campaign but will only keep them on tenterhooks ahead of the final league games for both. Currently, Wizards lead Magicians by eight goals (22-14).
But Magicians need to win not only against UP but also their final match against Ranchi Rhinos on February 7 at the MHA Mahindra Stadium and hope Wizards get beaten by Waveriders (also on Thursday) in their game to progress. The fact that the Magicians thrashed the Wizards 4-0 in their previous meeting, the home team's lone win in 10 games, should boost their confidence ahead of the do-or-die clash.
Magicians easily put up their best display against the Wizards to win by such a comprehensive margin, and would be aiming for an encore. The second leg match appears to be a straight penalty corner battle between discarded India stalwart Sandeep Singh and the man who has replaced him in the national team - Wizards captain V R Raghunath.
Sandeep scored a brace while Raghunath drew a blank when the two met here on January 30. The former leads the goal-getters list with 11 under his belt, six clear of the man who has usurped his place in the Indian team.