I know it sounds like a cliche, but the sixth season of the Indian Super League – ISL 2019-20 – is primed to be perhaps its best so far. Football has fast grown as India’s second most popular sport after cricket ever since the inception of the ISL, and the competition is now at a stage where each of its teams and foreign players are household names. It’s early days, yes, with each team playing only 4 of their 18 games in the league stages yet. But even these 20 football matches have given fans reason to hope that this will be the most interesting season yet.
Let’s see why you should follow the ISL 2019-20 as much as EPL or IPL this year. Here are five reasons:
THE OLD GUARD IS BACK
ATK – Atletico de Kolkata – which represents the most football-mad city of India, is back in business after two timid seasons. Three wins in their first four matches put them on top of the early table, but it’s the way they’ve won the matches that have given fans renewed hope of the return of the kings. The two-time ISL Champions have fired into the lead with 10 goals in 4 games – the standout being a 5-0 thrashing of newcomers Hyderabad. ATK lost the opening game of the season to Kerala Blasters, but have won three in a row now, including 3-1 at home to a solid Jamshedpur team, which means that the return of the two-title winning coach Antonio Lopez Habas has pulled off a masterstroke by teaming up captain Roy Krishna with Spanish forward Edu Garcia. Moreover, ATK has conceded only 1 goal in their last 3 matches.
BENGALURU STUCK IN FIRST GEAR
The best team of the ISL in the last two years – Bengaluru FC, also defending champs and two-time finalists – are struggling to win in ISL 2019-20. That’s not to say Chhetri’s team is losing – they have not lost a single out of 4 games so far – but they have drawn three of the four. The most functional team of ISL will be confident after their recent 3-0 win against Chennaiyin, but just a total of 1 goal in their other three draws must have them worried. Not losing is always fine, but Bengaluru FC represent so much more than just pulling through and barely making the playoffs. Will this be the year they are removed from their lofty perch? Only time, and ATK, will tell.
MORE GRIEF FOR SHOCKING CHENNAIYIN
Just as Leicester City FC’s 2016 English Premier League title victory made for perhaps the most fascinating story ever in football history, the sudden death of two-time champs Chennaiyin’s sudden dip in class, quality, form and mental ability is the dark Indian equivalent of the enigmatic tale. How in the world did they go from upsetting Bengaluru FC in the 2017-18 final to finishing dead last in the fifth season and then beginning this season with three losses out of 4 and just one draw. Here’s the clincher: Beleaguered manager John Gregory’s Chennaiyin FC is YET to score a goal in ISL-6. Gregory’s days are definitely numbered. People will do well to remember that Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked when his team found itself in the relegation zone the very next season.
Mumbai City FC, which started impressively with 1 win and 1 draw, have just conceded 8 goals in their last 2 games – two 4-2 losses to FC Goa and Odisha at home. In their first two games, Mumbai hadn’t conceded a single goal. Now we know which team is the entertainer this season. From hot to cold, Mumbai City could just be the most unpredictable and dangerous team in ISL 2019-20.
GOA SCORING FOR FUN
They may not have won all their games, but the back of the net is not a lonely place when Goa is on the pitch. 10 goals in 4 games – two draws against two big rivals in Bengaluru and NorthEast United – have furthered the perception that this could just be the year Goa is learning how NOT to lose rather than how to win. That could well be the difference between reaching the final and losing prettily, and reaching the final and winning ugly. They could just be the year’s Liverpool.
If you want all the action of ISL 2019-20, go down live in person, book tickets to support your team or explore more sports events here.