With seven games to go in the league stage of IPL 2021, there are two distinct battles being fought for qualifications and positions. Teams ranked fourth to seventh are battling for the fourth spot, while the top three are eying a top-two finish. Here is a look at what the teams need to do to achieve their goals.

Kolkata Knight Riders

Matches played: 13, Points: 12, NRR: 0.294, Remaining game: vs Rajasthan Royals

Knight Riders are best placed to take fourth place. The win against Sunrisers Hyderabad took their points tally up to 12 but importantly, their net run rate is an impressive 0.294, easily the best among the teams fighting for the fourth playoff spot. A win in their last game, against Royals on Thursday, will likely ensure they finish fourth.

However, if they lose on Thursday, they will have to hope that Mumbai Indians and Royals don't go beyond 12. For that to happen, Mumbai will have to beat Royals, and lose their last game to Sunrisers. In that case, Knight Riders will qualify with the best NRR among the teams on 12 points.

Punjab Kings
Matches played: 13, Points: 10, NRR: -0.241, Remaining game: vs Chennai Super Kings

Kings are all but out of the race. They can only get to 12, which means they will have to lift their NRR above that of Knight Riders to stand a chance. For them to qualify, they will have to win their last match, against table-toppers Super Kings, hope that Knight Riders lose heavily against Royals, and also that no other team gets to 14. The NRR odds are stacked against them: if, for instance, Kings win by 70 runs and Knight Riders lose by the same margin, Kings will edge ahead with an NRR of 0.034, to the Knight Riders' 0.011.

Rajasthan Royals
Matches played: 12, Points: 10, NRR: -0.337, Remaining games: vs Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders

Knight Riders' excellent NRR means there is little room to manoeuvre for any of the other teams. The only realistic chance for Royals to qualify is for them to win their last two games. Since their opponents are Mumbai and Knight Riders, those two wins will also eliminate both those teams.

However, if it comes down to NRR with teams level on 12 points, then it is extremely unlikely that Royals will make it. Even if they lose to Mumbai by just one run, they will have to beat Knight Riders by about 75 runs to go past them on NRR.

Mumbai Indians
Matches played: 12, Points: 10, NRR: -0.453, Remaining games: vs Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad

Mumbai are in a similar position to Royals - their NRR is so poor that they need to win both their games to have an opportunity to qualify. Even if they do that, they won't have a realistic chance if Knight Riders beat Royals and reach 14 - Mumbai will have to win their two games by a combined margin of around 200 runs to stand a chance.

At the top of the table, meanwhile, the fight is to finish among the top two, with three teams vying for those couple of slots.

Chennai Super Kings
Matches played: 13, Points: 18, NRR: 0.739, Remaining game: Punjab Kings

Super Kings' NRR of 0.739 is still the best among all teams, but their defeat against Capitals has pushed them down to second. They could drop further to third if they lose their last game against Punjab Kings, and if Royal Challengers win both their remaining games and finish on 20. However, if it comes down to NRR, Super Kings will stay in front as they are far ahead of Royal Challengers' -0.157.

Delhi Capitals
Matches played: 13, Points: 20, NRR: 0.526, Remaining game: Royal Challengers Bangalore

With 20 points in their kitty, Delhi Capitals are pretty much assured of a top-two finish. For them to drop to third, Royal Challengers will have to win their last two by huge margins: if they beat Sunrisers by 50 runs and Capitals by 60 (after scoring 160), they'll sneak ahead of Capitals. Then, if Super Kings win their last game and get to 20, Capitals will fall to third place.

Royal Challengers Bangalore
Matches played: 12, Points: 16, NRR: -0.157, Remaining games: vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi Capitals

Royal Challengers have already qualified, but to finish among the top two they will need to win both their matches, and hope that Super Kings lose their last game. If all three teams finish with 20, getting past one of them on NRR is extremely unlikely: as mentioned above, they will have to beat Sunrisers by 50 runs and Capitals by 60, to finish ahead of Capitals on NRR.

1430GST The story has been updated after Monday's fixture, where Delhi Capitals beat Chennai Super Kings

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats