The teams brace for the end of season run-in as the final sprint for the top four goes into over-drive.

As we enter the third month of the Indian Super League 2017-18 another fresh action-packed set of rivalries resume this mid-week. The battle for playoff positions looks interesting with each passing day and the bottom half strugglers aim nothing less than a victory.

Mumbai City FC Vs Jamshedpur FC

Date & Venue: 1st February/Mumbai Football Arena

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

Fresh from away victories in their respective last matches, Mumbai City FC play host to Jamshedpur FC in this week’s opener. With playoff positions in sight, both the mid tablers would want a win at this stage of the season although the reverse encounter ended in a 2-2 stalemate. A win will push either of them into top4.

Islanders’ coach Alexandre Guimaraes sounded positive after the win in their last game against FC Goa and has not given up on the playoff chances yet. The ability to change the rhythm according to the requirements of the game has helped Mumbai’s cause immensely. But the home team has managed a mix bag of results at home this season, winning and losing three a piece. Mumbai will once again rely on the strike force of Achille Emana and Balwant Singh. With Brazilian forward Everton Santos proving to be the lynchpin, his compatriot Thiago Santos has also shone of late. Romanian centre back Lucian Goian has led the team by example and earned lot of praise from the fans.

Steve Coppell and Jamshedpur FC knows will be aware of the fact that both the teams will be pushing each other to try and climb up the points ladder. However the Englishman knows Mumbai, who come into this game after defeating a high flying FC Goa, cannot be gauged lightly. The Steel Boys from East India would want the ever watchful custodian Subrata Pal to guard the net. Manipuri left back Yumnam Raju has been impressive in the last couple of games and would like to cement his place. Trindade Goncalves and Kervens Belfort have been instrumental for Jamshedpur FC when it comes to turning dominance into attack. Coppell also trusts the swift legs of Jerry Mawihmingthanga who can put opposition defense in a tizzy.

FC Pune City Vs Kerala Blasters FC

Date & Venue: 2nd February/Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

FC Pune City welcome the southerners from Kerala on Friday. This will be Pune’s third home game on the bounce. Having successfully negotiated the last two games, the Stallions will look to carry the winning momentum in the business end of the league. On the opposite end, two times finalist Kerala Blasters have their job cut out as they find themselves at the 7th place.

Although Pune sit pretty at the 3rd position on the points table, but coach Ranko Popovic knows that their job is far from being done yet. Time and again Pune have been able to read the opposition’s tactics and game strategy quite well. The Serbian tactician has used the resources at his disposal to the fullest and they are paying off. Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelinho will try their best to sneak in through Sandesh Jhingan-led Kerala defence. Pune will have the backing of the Orange Army and would definitely want to make the most of the home advantage.

The Manjappada-favorites had a shaky season this time around with inconsistency and poor team balance making them suffer. With the reintroduction of ex-Liverpool custodian David James as the manager, the squad seem to have found the unity and intent to display their true colours. But the Englishman fears that even winning all the remaining matches might not be sufficient for his team. With Mark Sifneos gone, Ian Hume and CK Vineeth would have to shoulder additional responsibility. The manager might also want to bring in the experience of Dimitar Berbatov subject to his availability.


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ATK vs Bengaluru FC

Date & Venue: 3rd February/Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

Defending champions ATK face off table toppers Bengaluru FC at home. The Bengal tigers are winless in their last three games and could pile more misery on themselves. Bengaluru would like to march on with their fine form instead of showing sympathy to their opponents.

ATK manager Ashley Westwood knows his previous employers in and out having managed them since their inception. However there’s no love lost between the two parties when they meet in Kolkata on Saturday. The two time champions have looked very ordinary in the recent couple of games and Westwood blames the injuries for the team’s poor show. Kolkata are without the services of marquee player Robbie Keane, Ryan Taylor and Eugeneson Lyngdoh, all of them nursing injuries. In such a scenario, the Kolkata boss must devise a strategy to dodge the Bengaluru attack or introduce any surprise element.

When both the teams last faced each other, this happened

One of the league favourites, Bengaluru FC will look to continue their dominance in the points table. After successfully negotiating the AFC Champions League playoffs, Albert Roca will have a fresh-again bunch of first team players. Skipper Sunil Chhetri, Miku and Erik Paartalu will look to make the Kolkata backline run helter skelter. In a hindset the odds look to be against the toothless Bengal tigers, all we need to do is wait and watch.

FC Goa Vs NorthEast United FC

Date & Venue: 4th February/Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa

Time & Broadcast: 08:00 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

Low lying NEUFC travel down southwest to play FC Goa at the Fatorda stadium on Sunday. Facing immense pressure from the mid-table teams, the Gaurs would like to consolidate their position in the Top 4 even more with a victory on Sunday rather than leaving it till late. With playoff hopes fading away rapidly, the Highlanders would look to cause an upset and climb up the table.

The Highlanders pulled one of the upsets of the season against the Kannada club

FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera will not take his opponents lightly having already tasted defeat in the reverse encounter earlier this January. The Gaurs’ attack has been eye-catching this season as they have never looked short of goals. The addition of Mark Sifneos adds more options up front with the likes of Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote. Otherwise a strong side, FC Goa’s defensive lapses have cost them a few crucial points this season. The home side will be wary of NEUFC’s quick legs on the wings who can prove to be more than a handful on their day.

On the other hand, NEUFC will be desperate to win the remaining few games to have any chance of qualification into the playoffs and also hope the permutations and combinations work out in their favour. To be honest, most see this as the Highlanders worst season ever as they have not been able to recover from their deep pitfall. With three new signings, the 9th place side have shown their intent for a comeback but they might have left it till a bit late. As always, Brazilian playmaker Marcinho will be the man to watch in the attacking half with the trio of Narzary, Danilo and Len Doungel around him.