After three months of exhilarating action, we have finally reached the last leg of this season’s Indian Super League’s (ISL) league stages. As is common knowledge by now, both ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City have already qualified for the playoffs while the race for the 3rd and 4th positions is hotting up with every passing game. With FC Goa, Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United all still in contention, this one will surely go down to the wire.
Race for the top spot
ATK Mohun Bagan, with their four consecutive victories, have managed to topple Mumbai City from the top spot and currently have a two-point lead. However, with the derby on the horizon, and matches against Hyderabad FC and the Islanders themselves after that, it won’t be smooth sailing for the Mariners in their quest for the numero uno position in the table which will guarantee an appearance in the AFC Champions League next season. On the other hand, Sergio Lobera’s side face Jamshedpur and Odisha next, two sides who are struggling for form, before the potential decider. Therefore, in theory, they might still have the edge going into the final three games but in all fairness, it looks like the match between the two sides on the 28th will be an unofficial playoff for the top spot.
Incredible showdown between three great teams
What NorthEast United and Hyderabad FC have achieved this season so far is immense. While the former survived the sacking of their coach to mount an unbelievable top 4 charge, the latter literally rose from the ashes of their failures in the 2019-20 campaign and look well worth the hype. Joining them in the race for the remaining two spots is an ubiquitous FC Goa side under their young manager Juan Ferrando. The Gaurs have had issues of their own, but the individual quality of their players have shone through during the difficult moments.
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However, what might tilt the scale in favour of Khalid Jamil’s adventurous NorthEast side is the fact that their last two matches are against two inconsistent sides in SC East Bengal and Kerala Blasters. With the Nizams playing Goa in the final matchday, one or both of those sides are sure to drop points which can make the equation even easier for the Highlanders as long as they win their matches. Manolo Marquez’s side also have to face ATK Mohun Bagan while a resurgent Bengaluru FC host Goa next, making it a tall order for both these sides to gather all three points before meeting each other.
Joker in the pack
Even though Bengaluru FC are five points behind the aforementioned trio, mathematically they are still in the fray for a playoff spot. For that, they need to beat FC Goa as well as Jamshedpur and hope that NorthEast and Hyderabad lose both their games. Consequently, if the match between Goa and Hyderabad is drawn, then they will need to ensure that they win by big margins in their final two games to stand a chance of qualification.
For the remaining sides, it’s about playing for pride from this point on. Robbie Fowler’s SC East Bengal have the derby to look forward to while denting their eternal rivals’ hopes of finishing first will also be on top of their agenda. Lastly, Jamshedpur, Chennaiyin, Kerala Blasters and Odisha will be hoping to finish their season on a strong note before starting their preparations for next season.