Pune: Punjab will face the uphill task of not only pulling the rug from under the feet of formidable Chennai but also boosting their net run rate in the last IPL round-robin match on Sunday.
Punjab had started the season with a string of wins before going off the boil. Currently placed at the seventh position with 12 points, KXIP still have a slender chance of making it to the play-off.
Mumbai, Rajasthan and Bangalore are also at 12 points with one match to go but Punjab will have the advantage of knowing exactly what they need to do to make a last-ditch effort to steal a play-off berth.
It has been a story of individual brilliance for Punjab who have failed to click as a team. Only KL Rahul (652 runs) has been scoring runs in a heap but none of the other batsmen have played to their potential on a consistent basis.
KXIP had come agonisingly close to securing a win against Mumbai in their last outing before a last-minute slip saw the defending champions seal the contest by three runs in the last over.
Chris Gayle played some superb knocks early in the tournament but of late he has been ineffective. Among others, Aaron Finch, Karun Nair, Marcus Stonis, Mayank Agarwal, Yuvraj Singh all have failed to contibute significantly.
Among bowlers, only Andrew Tye (24 wickets) has delivered along with injured rookie Afghan leggie Mujeeb Ur Rahman, which has hurt the side's chances.
If they have to do the improbable, R Ashwin's side would need a better show from their bowlers and batsmen alike in their last league game.
Chennai, on the other hand, have already qualified for the play-off but they would be eager for a top-two finish.
Handed a reality check by an out-of-reckoning Delhi on Friday night, Chennai will be looking to plug the gaps before they take on Punjab.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Chennai are sitting in second spot with 16 points and a victory tomorrow would seal a top-two finish and a place in Qualifier 1 against Hyderabad in Mumbai on May 22.
However, Friday night's 34-run defeat against a bottom-placed Delhi has exposed the weakness of two-time champions Chennai and they need to quickly regroup.
For Chennai, Ambati Rayadu (585 runs) has been brilliant throughout the season as he has delivered wherever he was asked to bat - as opener or at number 4.
He and experienced Australian campaigner Shane Watson (438 runs) will have to give the Southern outfit a solid start.
The tournament has seen some vintage innings from Dhoni (430 runs), who has reminded his critics that he is not past his prime. His role will be crucial tomorrow when CSK play their last game at their adopted home venue -- the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
Others like Suresh Raina, who failed with the bat on Friday night, West Indian Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja will also need to chip in.
The return of pacer Deepak Chahar from injury has bolstered CSK's bowling attack that will also depend on Shardul Thakur and the experienced spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Jadeja to stop in-form Rahul and Gayle from taking the game away.
Punjab: Ravichandran Ashwin (captain), Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch, KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Barinder Sran, David Miller, Andrew Tye, Ankit Rajpoot, Axar Patel, Akshdeep Nath, Mayank Agarwal, Manoj Tiwary, Yuvraj Singh, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Dagar.
Chennai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Faf Du Plessis, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayadu, Deepak Chahar, K M Asif, Kanish Seth, Lungi Ngidi, Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay, Sam Billings, Mark Wood, Kshtiz Sharma, Monu Kumar, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma, Shardul Thakur, N Jagadeesan, David Willy.