The winds keep changing in this season’s Indian Super League (ISL) and with every passing game, something or the other happens which makes the race for the playoff spots even more interesting. As we enter the last couple of weeks of the league stages, let us take stock of the situation and assess what the future might hold.
Current Top 3
NorthEast United’s 3-1 victory over Odisha last night means that Chennaiyin FC are now out of the race for the qualifying positions. The Marina Machans have 18 points from as many matches and even if they win both their remaining games, they will still be behind those above them. Moreover, with ATK Mohun Bagan also winning against Jamshedpur FC, they are now top of the table, two points ahead of Mumbai City having played a game more. The Islanders face Bengaluru FC tonight and have a chance to regain their advantage. But it won’t be easy as the Blues will themselves be determined to win all their remaining games to keep their top 4 hopes alive. They currently have 19 points and although they have three tough games remaining, Naushad Moosa will be hoping tonight can be the start of a fruitful spell of games.
Three teams, two spots
This brings us back to the most important part of the table. While both FC Goa and Hyderabad FC have 24 points from 17 games, NorthEast have stolen a march on them. They have 26 points and it looks like another four from their last three games might just be enough for them to bag that third spot. It has to be remembered in this context that in case all these three teams finish level on points, then the points accumulated in the matches between them will be considered to decide which two teams go through. If two of them finish with the same number of points, the qualifier will be decided through a simple head to head count. With FC Goa facing Hyderabad on the last matchday, this one will surely go down to the wire.
Jamshedpur’s chances of qualification were dealt a severe blow when they lost against the Mariners. However, Owen Coyle’s men still have an outside chance. They need to win their remaining two games against Mumbai City and Bengaluru and have to hope that NorthEast, Goa and Hyderabad drop points. The same is true for Bengaluru FC as well. For SC East Bengal and Kerala Blasters, the writing is mostly on the wall but if they can both win their three remaining games, that might turn the tables on NorthEast, who face both these sides, as well as Hyderabad, who still have a match to play against the Tuskers. Even so, it looks like it’s going to be a tall order for both Robbie Fowler and Kibu Vicuna and their wards.