After three months of an intense fight and hard work, the Indian Super League 2021-22 season has reached its penultimate phase with the playoffs kick-starting from Friday.
There have been a lot of twists and turns along the way and there'll be a lot more in the upcoming week. The knockout stages have always thrived in bringing out the absolute best from the biggest stars of the competition and this time will be no exception also.
So, ahead of the commencement of the playoff stages of the competition, here are the five players you should watch out for.
5. Liston Colaco, ATK Mohun Bagan FC
The 23-year-old forward is one of the most exciting young talents in Indian football right now. ATK Mohun Bagan are blessed with a pacey winger-forward who is a dependable creator and his skills on the ball are second to none.
Liston Colaco has made 20 appearances for the Mariners in the league so far, scoring eight goals, and assisting three to his teammates.
His effectiveness with the knuckleball technique and the capability to score stunning screamers have helped him to establish himself as one of the most applauded names in Indian Football.
For a player of his calibre, the playoff stages are the perfect platform to showcase his talent and prove why he is so special.
4. Adrián Luna, Kerala Blasters FC
Adrián Luna is the mainstay in the midfield for Kerala Blasters. The 29-year-old is a fantastic playmaker who does his job without any fuss.
The Uruguayan has been an extremely influential figure in Blaster's overwhelming form in the Indian Super League this season with his ability to link up the midfield to attacking duo, Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Alvaro Vazquez.
Luna not only creates chances for his teammates with his accurate passes but also has the knack to score goals from long distances.
The orchestrator of Kerala Blasters' midfield has clocked a passing accuracy of 69.96% in the league stages and has scored 5 goals and produced 7 assists.
Now facing the ISL Shield winners in the semi-final, Luna will be keen to win the battle of playmakers between him and Greg Stewart.
3. Álvaro Vázquez García, Kerala Blasters FC
The Spaniard was one of the most talked-about footballers when he announced his arrival in India.
The front four of Blasters' have a marvelous understanding among themselves and their lethal combination has worked well for Ivan Vukomanović's side.
The Kerala Blasters forward Álvaro Vázquez had a difficult start to the season, but as the season has progressed he has started showing his actual potential from famous first touch to astonishing finishes and will be looking to build upon that when Kerala Blasters take on Jamshedpur FC.
Álvaro Vázquez has netted eight goals and produced one assist over 20 appearances this season.
With his positional awareness, searing pace, and incredible work rate, he could well become one of the most captivating headlines of the playoff stages.
2. Bartholomew Ogbeche, Hyderabad FC
Hyderabad FC have qualified for the ISL playoffs for the first time in their history.
The main reason behind the upsurge of Nizams is their centre-forward Bartholomew Ogbeche, who has been absolutely terrific and led them from the front in the competition so far.
The 37-year-old forward is currently on top of the charts in the Indian Super League's all-time scorers' list.
He has netted an incredible 17 goals in just 17 appearances this season with a conversion rate of 30%. His goal ratio of 1 goal/game shows that the striker is not in a mood to stop scoring.
Most importantly, he has scored when his team needed it the most.
Ogbeche's ability to perform well under pressure would come in handy in the semi-final as well.
1. Greg Stewart, Jamshedpur FC
Scottish forward Greg Stewart has been on an absolute tear this season for Jamshedpur FC. In the Indian Super League, Stewart has been a class apart from all other attacking players.
Before the start of the competition, nobody had given Jamshedpur a chance to go this far in the competition. But under the leadership of Owen Coyle, they have played fantastically brand of football right throughout the competition and have clinched the League Winners' Shield of the Indian Super League for the first time in their history.
Stewart is one of the finest talents in Indian football at the moment. Needless to say his importance in this Jamshedpur side is immense.
The 31-year-old has registered 10 goals and 10 assists in the competition so far, making him only the second player after Hugo Boumous to do so. Stewart is looking good to get the Golden Ball award if everything goes well.
Jamshedpur FC will face a stern test against Kerala Blasters in the semifinals but one can count on Stewart to rise to the occasion and deliver a match-winning performance.