The 13th edition of the IPL is all set to kick start this Saturday, as defending champions MI take on former three-time champions CSK in the opening encounter at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Having failed to defend their title on the previous three occasions, MI would be looking for success this term, as they aim to start with a bang.

The tournament is being held in a different territory this term, owing to the ongoing pandemic. Nonetheless, it won't be an unfamiliar territory altogether, having previously played the competition here, in 2014, for a brief period. Hither, we present the match preview ahead of this high-octane clash.

Squad composition: Starting with the squad, both teams are heavily balanced. While MI possess some fine batsmen and all-rounders, they are a bowling-heavy side. As for CSK, they too possess an evenly-balanced squad, with equal weightage in all departments, making it an even contest. However, with the absence of MI's Lasith Malinga and CSK's Suresh Raina, it would be interesting to see how the sides cope up with it.

Previous form: Considering the form from the last season, MI are likely to have an upper hand, owing to the fact that they beat CSK on three occasions, including the final. Nonetheless, with a fresh new season and a different province altogether, the form from the last season hardly makes a difference.

Head-to-head: As for their head-to-head clash to date, in 30 matches, MI have won the most (18), while CSK have won 12. Whereas in the IPL, MI have won 17 of 28 matches, while CSK have won 11. Meanwhile, in the UAE, both have met just once, with CSK standing tall.

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Weather and pitch report: While it is likely to stay hot and humid throughout the evening, the gentle breeze blowing across the ground, which is an open venue, will highly reduce the chances of precipitation. As for the track, it is mostly on the slower side, with enough assistance for spinners. However, with the wind blowing in, the seamers, too, are likely to have a fair advantage.

Predicted XI:
MI: Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Mitchell McClenaghan, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah.
CSK: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, DJ Bravo, Piyush Chawla, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir, Shardul Thakur.

Fantasy XI:
Batsmen: Rohit Sharma (vc), Shane Watson, Faf Du Plessis — Rohit is generally known to give strong starts, and as an opener, he would be best supported by Watson, who is deadly too, while du Plessis is always a stable one at number three.
Wicketkeeper: MS Dhoni (c), Quinton De Kock — The reason to have Dhoni as the skipper is not just because of his success, but also being a stress-free captain this season, while de Kock would mostly impress with the bat, besides being a wicketkeeper on stand-by.
All-rounders: Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Krunal Pandya — Pandya is a must-have in the side owing to his new aggressive attitude, and is best known to perform against spinners. Meanwhile, Jadeja and Krunal are likely to make the most impact with their spin bowling on the slow Abu Dhabi track.
Bowlers: Piyush Chawla, Jasprit Bumrah, Deepak Chahar — Chawla is undoubtedly the surprise pick, but owing to the slow track, he is a must-have. Meanwhile, no matter what the track is, Bumrah just cannot be left out, for he can rattle anyone with his lethal yorkers, as Chahar can swing the ball in the windy conditions at the venue.

Players to make an impact:
Hardik Pandya: Returning to play after a long injury break and raring to go once again, Pandya is sure to fire in all cylinders, especially with the bat.
Rohit Sharma: The MI captain would be looking to make a statement, especially following a brilliant ICC World Cup 2019. Furthermore, he would be determined to break the jinx of failing to win the title in even years.
MS Dhoni: The retired former Indian captain would look to lead CSK to their record fourth title without any undue pressure of international cricket. This is likely to make him dangerous than ever.
Ravindra Jadeja: Known for his prolific all-round abilities, watch out for his lethal spin.