Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders will first look to improve their head-to-head record when they take on Gujarat Lions in their first match of IPL 10 in Rajkot on Friday. Also Read: Gautam Gambhir rues Umesh Yadav’s absenceAlso Read - IPL Auction Highlights: RPSG Group Takes Lucknow with 7000 Crore Bid, CVC Capital Bags Ahmedabad

Last year, Kolkata lost both their matches against Gujarat, who were playing in their debut IPL season. Although, being a newbie, Gujarat led by Suresh Raina made an impact by finishing on top of the points table. While, Kolkata finished fourth in the league stage after losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the eliminator. Also Read - IPL New Team Auction: Twitterverse React to Ahmedabad and Lucknow Inclusion in the Cash-Rich League

Gujarat will take confidence from last season’s performance and look to go the distance. On the other hand, Kolkata will focus on being consistent throughout the tournament. Also Read - IPL is Proving to be a Wonderful Instrument in Globalising Cricket, Sourav Ganguly Reacts as BCCI Announce Ahmedabad and Lucknow as Two New Teams

The Raina-led team is batting heavy, with their line-up comprising of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Smith, Raina and Dinesh Karthik. All these batsmen aggregated more than 300 runs last year.

However, Gujarat will miss the services of T20 specialist Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja, who has taken some time off after a hectic and long home season. Raina will be under pressure to put up best performance after getting snubbed from BCCI’s central contract. (IPL 2017: Full coverage)

Karthik will be key for Gujarat, who comes to the tournament after scoring heavily in Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy for Tamil Nadu. The wicketkeeper-batsman scored 854 runs in 12 innings – the fourth-highest in a List A season.

Jadeja will be missed at the initial stage of the tournament, who bagged 71 wickets and scored 556 runs from India’s 13 home Tests. Also Read: When in form make the most of it, says Steve Smith

On the other hand, Kolkata will be without allrounder Andre Russell, who is serving a one-year ban for doping violation.  However, the franchise had things covered up by recruiting Rovman Powell and Colin de Grandhomme. But it has to be seen, who gets the nod to start.

Kolkata have the advantage of having the core group in place, both in batting and bowling. Moreover, they have an experienced allrounder in Shakib Al Hasan and added to that the bowling department has the fire power in Umesh Yadav, Trent Boult, Chris Woakes, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav.

There will be nerves for both the sides, but a win at the start will set the momentum for the long tournament ahead.