Repeat on Mumbai's minds
The defending champions find themselves in a state far different from the one they left the tournament in last year. For a franchise considered to be the richest among the IPL teams, with plenty of star value, they finished a disappointing fourth in the 2012 IPL. Had the Champions League retained the same format as last year, Mumbai Indians would not have earned a direct qualification for this edition. But the rules have been changed, and they have a chance to defend the title, albeit not as favourites.
Among the teams in this competition, their fortunes will be followed more closely than most others and will attract a significant proportion of the Indian television audience that the tournament so badly relies on for its success. Equipped with plenty of firepower in the batting, and the services of Lasith Malinga with the ball, Mumbai offer lots of entertainment value. And unlike last year, when an injured Sachin Tendulkar watched his team's games from the sidelines, with adequate television time reserved exclusively for his reactions to compensate for his absence from the XI, his fans will be able to see him take the field this time.
Mumbai were in the news a fair amount off the field as well: injuries to several Indian players in their squad led them to convince the tournament organisers to allow the team to field five foreign players instead of the usual four. One of those injured players, Suryakumar Yadav, smashed a century in an Under-22 game shortly after being declared unfit, returned to the squad to the embarrassment of the franchise. The build-up so far has been relatively low profile, the tournament taking place almost immediately after the World Twenty20. But once it kicks off, the tournament's most high-profile team won't escape close scrutiny.
How they qualified
Thanks to a change in qualification rules. The change was made in July this year, allowing the fourth IPL team - in this case, Mumbai Indians - a direct entry in the main competition. Kolkata Knight Riders, who had finished fourth in the fourth edition of the IPL, had to compete in a qualification round in the Champions League last year.
Apart from the obvious Tendulkar and Malinga, Kieron Pollard has been a key player for Mumbai. He had a good game against Australia in the semi-final of the World T20 but the tournament, otherwise, was a relatively quiet one for him, barring the celebrations that followed West Indies' title triumph.
Munaf Patel played in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy recently, but hasn't played enough competitive cricket since the IPL. He was expensive in the IPL, but picked up 15 wickets at 24.46 in 12 games. He isn't the swiftest mover in the field, but can bowl tight and vary his pace well. He's not played for the national team for more than a year, and each game he plays is a chance for him to make an impression on India's new selection panel.
Mitchell Johnson missed the whole of the 2012 IPL due to a toe injury he picked up in South Africa last year. He made his return to international cricket in July this year and last played in August-September against Pakistan in the UAE. Though he was outshone by the other Mitchell, Starc, he was economical and picked up four wickets in three games.
Also a capable lower-order batsman, Johnson could form a strong opening bowling combination with Malinga, and the progress he's made since his comeback will also be closely watched.
Mumbai had issues with their opening combination during the IPL this year - they tried as many as eight. It'll be interesting to see who opens with Tendulkar. They have the choice of playing Richard Levi, but he's struggling, or Dwayne Smith, who gives an additional bowling option. The tinkering was not confined to the top, and the lack of a settled line-up was one of Mumbai's big problems in the recent IPL.
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo