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 in Mumbai 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 in Mumbai 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.
The Wizards would once again be looking to keep their opposition's main weapon, Sandeep Singh, out of play. The drag flick expert has been the only constant scorer for the hosts.
During their last meeting, the Wizards effectively avoided conceding penalty corners and that ploy proved enough to frustrate the Magicians.
It would be interesting to see what strategy they employ because even a draw would be enough for them to secure a semi-final berth.
Sandeep feels that his side is learning from the past mistakes and will improve their game in tomorrow's match.
"We will improve our performance and try our level best for a good result in tomorrow's match," Sandeep stated ahead of their do-or-die encounter.
UP Wizards skipper Raghunath wants more points in their kitty.
"It's a deciding match for us. We want to put up some points in our points table before we play our last match against Delhi Wave Riders. We are pretty confident that we will definitely make a comeback in tomorrow's game," he said.