It's still early days in the tournament, but defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders are already feeling the heat. Three defeats in as many matches on the road, including a self-inflicted one in Mohali last Tuesday, have pushed them to the bottom half of the table.

The way out of the hole for Gautam Gambhir's inconsistent Knights is to take advantage of playing at home thrice over the next seven days and win at least two of them, if not all three. The Knights start off this crucial phase on Saturday against two-time champions Chennai Super Kings, the team they dethroned in last year's final to deny them a hat-trick of titles.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has said time and again that he doesn't believe in the word 'revenge' in sport. But this is one match 'Captain Cool' would no doubt hate to lose. It's true that Chennai have been, rather uncharacteristically, caught napping twice at home this season, but the Men in Yellow showed champions' mettle in shrugging off a morale-crushing defeat at the hands of Pune Warriors with an 86-run hammering of Delhi.

Two of his trusted lieutenants Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina are yet to fire, but the skipper himself has been in imperious form, smashing game-changing 30s and 40s in quick time.

And Dhoni is not the only match-winner in the CSK ranks. They have in Ravindra Jadeja, Mike Hussey, Dwayne Bravo and Raina cricketers who can take the game away from the opposition in a jiffy. Add new South African import, gangling pacer Chris Morris to that list, and you have a formidable all-season outfit.

Before KKR start evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of CSK, they have to fix their batting unit. It will also be interesting to see if KKR sacrifice spinner Sachithra Senanayake to strengthen the batting.

Kolkata Knight Riders

X Factor: The collective ability of pacers and spinners alike, to take the pace off the ball on the slow Eden surface holds the key to the match. Narine and Senanayeke, with their ability to vary their length and flight, are likely to play key roles.

Recent form: KKR, having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Mohali against KXIP on Tuesday, will be looking to make the most of the familiar conditions at Eden Gardens, the venue of their next three matches.

Weakness: A brittle middle-order has let the team down time and again. The likes of Tiwary, Pathan, Shukla have flattered to deceive.

Key players: Brendon McCullum's power hitting at the top, if he plays, may just be the tonic to revive KKR's somewhat anaemic batting. His ability to hit the big shots should take the pressure off KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir, who can play his natural game without taking risks. Eoin Morgan's red-hot form and Sunil Narine's wicket-taking ability augurs well for the defending champions.

10: The number of wickets taken by KKR's mystery spinner Sunil Narine. He picked up a hat-trick against KXIP and boasts of an economy rate of 6.10 and an average of 12.20 this season.

Chennai Super Kings

X Factor: An array of match-winners like Dhoni, Jadeja, Hussey, Bravo, Ashwin and Albie Morkel in their ranks means CSK are not dependant on one or two players to do the job.

Recent form: After slipping up badly against Pune Warriors, CSK bounced back strongly to decimate Delhi Daredevils by 86 runs at the Kotla on Thursday. The fact that CSK have won three of their four matches at the Eden should add to their confidence.

Weakness: Opener Murali Vijay and one-drop Suresh Raina are yet to fire, which is putting too much pressure on Hussey and the middle order. They also lack a genuine fast bowler.

Key players: With Skipper Dhoni leading from the front and exploding at the drop of a hat, CSK are back to being the formidable force they have been in the past five seasons. Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja's all-round skills, Mike Hussey's consistency and new addition Chris Morris' good pace make CSK an all-weather outfit.

151.61: MS Dhoni's current strike rate. He has faced only 62 balls in making 94 runs with six boundaries and five sixes.

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