The second edition of eISL is right at the business end with Bengaluru FC and Northeast United FC in a comfortable lead after the first leg of their respective semifinals.
While Charanjot Singh and Sagnik's Bengaluru FC won the first semifinal leg 2-1 against league stage toppers FC Goa, the Northeast United represented by Saransh Jain and Emaad have managed an even impressive 3-0 lead over Kerala Blasters FC.
As a Bengaluru FC versus Northeast United FC final looks well on the cards, Charanjot and Saransh - longtime teammates turned rivals, could not contain their excitement of playing each other in yet another major national final.
"We have been teammates for very long time and rivals at the same time. Of course there is a bit of fun factor playing against each other. We have played in numerous national finals. It is always exciting to play him because I look at the both of us as the top players in the country," Sarnash, the inaugural edition champion with Chennaiyin FC, told The Bridge after Northeast United FC's win over Kerala Blasters.
Charanjot, who had to skip the inaugural edition of eISL due to unforeseen circumstances, maintained that he would have to be on his toes to beat his close friend turned rival, if they face off in the final.
"With Saransh, you know what he is about to do. But at the same time he also knows what I am about to do. So you have to be on your toes. Sometimes, you just do the usual and it would just work, because he might be overthinking that I might do something extra. It is all about mind games," laughed Charanjot.
Unlike the inaugural edition where the entire tournament was played on an off-line LAN mode, the second edition of eISL is being played completely online. Both Charanjot and Saransh had contrasting views on the format of eISL this season.
"Obviously it is easier playing online, not like LAN is different. But playing online, you are in your comfort zone, in your chair. In LAN you can intimidate your opponents, you can shout after you score and their morale goes down. Which can not happen online," said the Bengaluru FC star.
Saransh, on the other hand, mentioned: "I prefer LAN because being there in the middle with the lights and camera on you, this is why I play FIFA."
"Online is fun, but offline is what clutch time is. Your opponents are under pressure and you can see them reacting to every single situation. I think it is a completely different ball game," he added.
While Saransh has had excellent support from his teammate Emaad in the league stages this season helping Northeast United to a second-placed finish, Charanjot had to do the heavy lifting for Bengaluru FC as his teammate Sagnik struggled to get going early on in the tournament.
"Sagnik has been great teammate. He started a bit slow, but has gotten into his groove as we progressed further. Hopefully he remains in his elements in the remaining two matches," Charanjot said.
"Emaad has been insane. Last season he was not doing well, but picked up towards the end. This season I do not think he has had a single bad game," Saransh beamed with pride.
With FIFA and EA set to part ways at the end of this season there is a cloud of uncertainty over the future of players.
"Next year, future might change a lot because FIFA and EA are splitting which will be a major factor for us. From what we have heard, the split will help in bettering the ecosystem. If it is good then obviously I will continue and I am signed with a pretty good organisation, so I am happy," Charanjot quipped.
Saransh, however, is unaffected by any of this and has his eyes set to winning an international tournament.
"I have been to a lot of international events, but have not managed to win a global event. I see myself winning one in near future," he stated.
But before they enter that rabbit hole, they still have two important eISL matches and the bragging rights of being the best in India up for grabs.
The second leg of the semifinals and the eISL final will be played later on Sunday.