After 90 football matches played over the course of four months, we finally have the four semifinalists of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20. FC Goa are the table-toppers, 5 points ahead of two-time champs ATK FC. Defending champions FC Bengaluru come in third, and comeback kings Chennaiyin FC have finished fourth. As we gear up for the two-leg semifinal fixtures, here’s a look at some interesting facts from the group stages.
– FC Goa, having topped the league table and won the ISL shield, will be the team representing India at the 2021 AFC Champions League. Goa have had a clinical season, losing only 3 of their 18 games and scoring a whopping 46 goals.
– FC Goa striker Ferran Corominas is in with a chance to win the Golden Boot for the fourth season in a row. His 14 goals this season is only one behind Kerala Blasters’ Bartholomew Ogbeche (15). With the Blasters no longer in the tournament, Corominas has at least two more matches to go past Ogbeche. ATK captain Roy Krishna, though, is also on 14 goals and very much in the race.
– The top scorer among Indian players is once again Sunil Chhetri, with 9 goals to his name.
– Newbies Hyderabad FC, who replaced Pune City FC, had a forgettable debut season. They finished rock-bottom with 10 points and just 2 wins from 18 games. They did, however, finish on a high note with a resounding 5-1 win in an away game against NorthEast United.
– FC Goa finished the group stage with 5 consecutive wins in their last 5 games.
– Chennaiyin FC sneaked into the top four after after lurking at the bottom in the first half of the season. They won 7 of their final 9 matches, drawing their final game against NorthEast United and missing the chance to leapfrog third-placed Bengaluru.
Semifinal 1: FC Goa v/s Chennaiyin FC
Chennaiyin FC executed one of the most memorable comebacks in ISL history this year. To put things into perspective, they were in the 9th place, only above Hyderabad, after the tenth round of the league stage. Given that they finished at the bottom last season, this turnaround is significant. Both Goa and Chennaiyin have remained undefeated in their last 5 games of the group stages. Both teams are in top form, a far cry from the ones that started in October. This is a mouth-watering semifinal clash, starting with the first leg at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday. The favourites, as always, are Goa. But Goa has struggled to bring their A-game in the playoff stages in the past. Chennaiyin, on the other hand, is the team everyone fears at this stage. They’re unpredictable, aggressive and in form. In the league stages, however, Goa did the double over Chennaiyin, winning 3-0 at home and 3-4 away.
Semifinal 2: ATK FC v/s Bengaluru FC
The current guard v/s the old guard. It has been a revelation of a season for two-time champs ATK, a team back to winning ways after two weak seasons. Finishing above Bengaluru on the table, a team widely considered to be the best ISL team in the last three seasons, will have boosted ATK’s self-belief. Having won 1-0 at home to Bengaluru and drawing 2-2 away, ATK are the only team that has penetrated Bengaluru’s solid defence thrice this season. On paper, the favourites are clearly ATK. But then football isn’t played on paper. Sunil Chhetri and co. have reached two finals in a row since their integration into the ISL, and one would be foolish to bet against them reaching a third consecutive final.
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