Bangalore: Their campaign sent haywire by a couple of unexpected losses, Royal Challengers Bangalore are now faced with a must-win situation when they take on former champions Chennai Super Kings in a crucial Pepsi IPL match here tomorrow.
Bangalore`s seven-wicket loss to Kings XI Punjab in their last match ended up confirming the play-off berths for Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.
The three top teams have crossed the 20-point mark which leaves three other teams -- Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab -- chasing the fourth spot in the points table.
Victory over Delhi Daredevils took Punjab to 14 points and they are two behind Bangalore (16) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (16). Punjab have one more match against Mumbai Indians on May 18 and they will aim to finish on 16 points.
Bangalore must beat Chennai to move to 18 points but that will not assure them a place in the final four. For them to qualify, Hyderabad and Punjab have to lose their remaining games.
Playing their last league game this season, Royal Challengers have a tough task against Chennai, who have been in top form, losing only four of the 15 games played this season.
Chennai will have nothing to lose and would try to upset Royal Challengers` chances to sneak into play-offs.
The last time both teams met was on April 13 at M A Chidambaram Stadium when Chennai trounced Bangalore by four wickets.
The hosts would like to return the compliment with a superlative performance from their destructive opener Chris Gayle. Chinnaswamy has been a happy hunting ground for Gayle as he has scored 504 runs here out of the 680 with a best of 175 not out this season.
Skipper Virat Kohli is also a vital cog in the RCB batting lineup as he has the ability to shift gears according to the situation. The flamboyant cricketer has scored 578 runs with 99 as his highest individual score this season.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who has worked on his attacking instincts and has added aerial shots to his repertoire, will have to play the role of a sheet-anchor in the side while AB de Villiers has been a tremendous finisher.
Talented Australian all-rounder Moises Henriques is also an impact cricketer and RCB need all these players to contribute in good measure.
But bowling is a slight worry for the RCB. They have failed to either defend totals or restrict opponents.
Ravi Rampaul, Murali Kartik and Vinay Kumar have done well but profligates Jaydev Unadkat, Muttiah Muralitharan and Abhimanyu Mithun are a matter of concern.
Zaheer Khan`s comeback has bolstered the confidence of his co-bowlers and he did reasonably well conceding 30 runs in four overs, picking up the prized wicket of Shaun Marsh in the previous game against Punjab.
But Chennai are expected to blaze through given the presence of high-profile and in-form players in their ranks. Michael Hussey, who is behind Gayle with 640 runs in the IPL, would be eager to get runs at the top of the order, Suresh Raina would look to control and accelerate at number three and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will aim to flourish in death overs.
Dwayne Bravo, purple cap holder with 24 wickets, along with Mohit Sharma will be expected to give brilliant performance with the ball yet again.
Others like Albie Morkel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Chris Morris and Dwayne Bravo, have done their bit and would be quite a handful for the Bangalore batsmen.