The league stage of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 has merely two rounds or nine games to go. The top three teams, FC Goa, ATK FC and Bengaluru FC, have already qualified for the playoffs. It is the fourth and final playoff spot that is under contention. Battling for the spot are Mumbai City and Chennaiyin FC. Mumbai has a solitary game left while Chennaiyin has three more, with just four points separating the two teams. Here’s a look at five talking points before the final week of league games.
Goa are on a roll
FC Goa has won four matches in a row since losing to title rivals ATK almost a month ago. The aggressive, top-scoring team have been on a rampage since, scoring goals for fun and laying down the marker for a much-awaited maiden ISL title before the playoffs. In the last four games alone, Goa has scored a whopping 16 goals, recently serving a 5-2 demolition to Mumbai City at home. For years now, Goa has consistently been topping the scoring charts with their aggressive, fluid style of football. Could this finally be the year they round it up with silverware? Goa certainly don’t want to remain the best ISL team to have not won the title yet.
ATK and FC Bengaluru, two teams that have three ISL titles between them, have been playing catch-up behind FC Goa in the last few weeks. Bengaluru have not been as strong as they were in the last two seasons, but have somehow scraped together enough points to guarantee themselves a playoff spot and a third consecutive shot at the title. What’s remarkable about these two teams has been their defensive gumption – ATK has only conceded 11 goals in 16 games, while Bengaluru have conceded only 9. These two teams have a contrasting style of play as compared to FC Goa, relying on a tight formation and complete back-half control to squeeze opponents into submission. It’ll be interesting to see if they can use this to dominate Goa in the playoffs. The last team to defeat Goa was ATK, and it kept a clean sheet too.
The ultimate comeback kings
After being down in the dumps in their first ten games and the exit of coach John Gregory, Chennaiyin FC have risen from the bottom to stake a claim on the final playoff spot of the season. Over the last five games, no other team has scored more points than Chennaiyin’s 13, winning four on the bounce and solidifying manager Owen Coyle’s influence over the hot-and-cold two-time champions. Chennaiyin finished rock-bottom last season as defending champions, and started similarly this year. This surge in form has seen them defeat Hyderabad, NorthEast United, Jamshedpur and Kerala Blasters (6-3!) before drawing with Bengaluru last weekend. They are just 4 points behind Mumbai City with two extra games in hand. But their next three opponents are ATK, Bengaluru and NorthEast United. It won’t be easy, but nothing has been for a year and a half now. This is their moment.
Crash and burn
Until December, Odisha FC and Jamshedpur FC were in the mix to make the fourth place ahead of Mumbai City, Chennaiyin FC and the rest. But their last five games have seen a dramatic shift in fortunes. Odisha has lost three in a row, while Jamshedpur has failed to register a win in more than a month. Now in the sixth and seventh position respectively, the two have no chance to make it to the playoffs with just two to play. This has been a disappointing meltdown, given how solidly they had begun.
Worst of the worst
Hyderabad FC, the newest ISL club, have endured nightmare first season in the tournament. The newbies are in danger of finishing the ISL with the lowest ever league points tally in the history of ISL football. They have won only 1 of their 16 games so far, and have a points total of 6 with two games to go. They will hope to rescue some pride in their final home match against Jamshedpur.
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