It’s the last month of the decade, can you believe it? Well, ISL fans certainly won’t care so much, because India’s biggest football league is back into overdrive after a short break. Most of the ten teams have played at least 5 rounds of football (out of a total of 18), and the cream is already rising to the top. You can sense everyone wants it bad, because there have been 5 consecutive draws in the last week, and no team is willing to budge.
Here’s the 5 most exciting and important ISL games to catch in the month of December:
December 7: NorthEast United v/s ATK
ATK has not lost since their first match of the season, and are table-toppers already, but both teams here have suffered a bit of a draw syndrome in the last few weeks. They have not lost, but they aren’t winning either – an illness that seems to be plaguing many ISL teams this season. As a result, NorthEast United, despite not having lost a game so far, is in 5th place – and one suspects they need a solid result in this game to jump back up. They still remain one of two teams (with Bengaluru FC) to remain unbeaten, but that won’t mean much if they can’t get 3 points on a regular basis. For all you know, by the time these two teams face off, NorthEast could be table-toppers (if they win their 6th round against Jamshedpur), and we would truly have a contest of equals.
December 14: FC Goa v/s ATK
Three draws out of six games is an unusual statistics for an attacking team like Goa, but the electric team has suffered because of red cards and dismissals in these first six matches. When they face ATK in the middle of the month, it’ll be late enough to declare a frontrunner for the league stages – and one of these two teams, one a two-time champion making a comeback, and the other a perpetual bridesmaid that plays the league’s most exciting football, will be in the reckoning. It will be a clash of form and styles, and a draw will help nobody.
December 15: Bengaluru FC v/s Mumbai City
Bengaluru, though unbeaten for its first six matches, have won only two so far. Mumbai City has won only 1 of its 6, losing twice. Both teams will look to get their scoring boots on in December after a lukewarm start to the ISL. Bengaluru is again one of the favourites to make the playoffs, but Mumbai City needs to prove its credentials after always flattering to deceive. Facing the defending champions away from home will be a great test for a team that either soars or crashes without an in-between tone.
December 20: Chennaiyin v/s Kerala Blasters
After six rounds each, both these teams are on only five points with 1 win and 3 defeats. Chennaiyin has been struggling ever since winning the ISL 2017-18 title, and the Blasters have tanked after beating ATK on the first day of the season. They almost beat a 10-man Goa last week until they conceded in the dying seconds, and need to win at least three matches this month without losing the rest to stay in the reckoning for the playoffs. Chennaiyin is fresh from sacking their two-time title-winning coach John Gregory after they showed faith in him despite a disastrous bottom-finishing last season, and will look to start a new chapter this month on a strong note.
December 25: ATK v/s Bengaluru FC
Currently the top two teams in the ISL table, these two could very well be miles apart by the time Christmas comes around. It won’t be festive for one of them, though it’s nice to see ATK rise from the ashes of their last two seasons, while Bengaluru are doing a respectable job as the best ISL team of the last three years. This could be a thrilling game for both sets of fans.