Already out of the IPL play-off race having suffered eight defeats in 12 games, Pune Warriors would be looking to restore some pride and play party poopers when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders at the DY Patil stadium on Thursday.
While the Warriors have blown away any chance of making it to the four-team play-offs in this edition of the IPL, the Knight Riders are well poised to make it to the second phase of the tournament, having won seven out of 12 games with a total points tally of 14.
And a victory over the struggling Warriors would ease their way to advance to the play-off stage but they would certainly be aware of the pitfalls that the Pune outfit is capable of creating in their way.
A defeat for the Knight Riders would make their position shaky with Kings XI Punjab creeping up the table in grand fashion with a string of victories. Punjab have sent out strong signals to the currently placed top-four teams in the table, following their massive 111-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Thursday's match to be played at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai takes on an extra edge with Sourav Ganguly playing against his old team.
The former India skipper would be eager to stamp his authority on the proceedings and send a message to the owners of the KKR, who discarded him after three years.
The Kolkata outfit has blown hot and cold this season. A string of wins has been followed by a few losses, including the one against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their previous game.
But they have had enough time to recover from that defeat and now would be anxious to hit the ground running and vanquishing the Warriors who arrested a seven-match losing sequence with a two back-to-back victories before suffering a huge defeat at home.
The Knight Riders' batting has revolved around five key players in captain Gautam Gambhir (312 runs from 12 games), leading run-scorer Jacques Kallis (358 from 12), Manoj Tiwary who has been the most consistent with a tally of four under 300 runs at a fine average of 74-plus, Yusuf Pathan and Eoin Morgan.
Kolkata's bowling has been sustained by spinners Pathan (11 wickets) and left-armer Iqbal Abdulla (14), but the biggest disappointment has been Brett Lee who has neither been incisive (4 wickets in 12 games) nor economical (236 runs conceded at over 7 per over and a none-too-impressive average of 59 per wicket).
Lee, would thus be eager to set things right on a track that has offered more bounce during the season than the one at the Knight Riders home venue, Eden Gardens.
Laxmipathy Balaji has done his bit with seven wickets under his belt but has also been expensive.
Against Pune's left-oriented top-order batting, Pathan can do the trick as he can take the ball away, which would invite Jesse Ryder, skipper Yuvraj Singh and Ganguly to play against the spin.
The Warriors batting has not lived up to expectations and has depended a lot on Ryder (291 runs from 12 games) at the top and Yuvraj (319 from 12) down the order till Ganguly's arrival late in the tournament.
Robin Uthappa (252 from 12) and Manish Pandey (230 from 8), who missed the first four matches due to a ban imposed on them by the IPL governing council, have not been very good at taking full advantage of their starts.
Uthappa said after the defeat against Deccan Chargers in the last game, the team would strive hard to win their last two games and avoid the wooden spoon in the ten-team tournament.
"Definitely we would play for pride. We would not want to be there at the bottom of the table. The season is not over yet. If we can finish on a high. We would be better off psychologically for next season," said the Karnataka batsman.
Pune's bowling has also been unimpressive so far and apart from Rahul Sharma's 16 wickets from 12 games in the tournament at an economy rate of 6, there is little the team can boost off.
Wayne Parnell and Yuvraj Singh (nine wickets from 12 games) are the other two bowlers, who have had a decent run till now but Murali Kartik (one wicket in six games) has been disappointing and thus failed to find a regular place in the playing eleven.
"I think our spinners are our main bowlers. Rahul (Sharma) and Yuvi have been bowling well," said Uthappa after the previous game.