The teams at the bottom must make their move if they are to remain relevant in the race for the playoffs as we approach the halfway point of the season.

The Indian Super League served up some sizzling matches last week, with the top-of-the-table clash between FC Goa and Bengaluru taking the cake. While the Blues continued their surge to the summit, some of the other results blew open the race for the playoffs.

Apart from certain obvious choices, it’s still to be determined which teams will be in the top four at the end of the league phase because of the competitive nature of the league. The next week will be crucial in determining the fate of a few teams’ playoffs dreams and boosting others’ chances. Here’s our ISL Preview for Gameweek 9:

FC Pune City Vs  NorthEast United

Date & Venue: 27th November/ Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Pune.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM IST/ Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar.

FC Pune City finally picked up their first win by thwarting Jamshedpur FC. They’ll look to maintain the momentum and play with similar intensity to gain another crucial three points, which can help continue their climb out of the pit. NorthEast United will be high on confidence themselves, after a thrilling last-minute success against Kerala Blasters. The Highlanders will look to pile on Pune’s misery with another away triumph.

The Stallions edge NorthEast in the head-to-head record, having won four of their eight meetings. the Highlanders have won three times, while one has been a stalemate.

FC Pune City will hand a start to Iain Hume, who should replace Robin Singh. They’ll retain the 4-2-3-1 formation which enabled them to play some good football the other day and hope their resurgent form results in a similarly attractive display against the Highlanders.

Hume could lead the attack for Pune, while Borges will be NEUFC’s lynchpin

NorthEast United should also go with an unchanged lineup, but will have to be defensively wary of Pune’s threat. They can’t be complacent coming after a big win and will want to retain their clinical, possession-based football to frustrate the Stallions.

Hume will want to make a big splash in his first start for Pune City and prove why he’s the ISL’s most celebrated striker. The Canadian hitman still has the tools in his arsenal to trouble opposition, with his movement, striking ability and unpredictability making him the Stallions biggest threat going forward.

Federico Gallego’s form has dipped slightly in recent games and he’ll look to improve that against Pune. Gallego’s intelligent movement and creativity in the final third makes him a big threat to any team.


Date & Venue: 28th November/ Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM IST/ Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar.

ATK hqave picked up a little momentum in their past few matches, but will need to continue their good work at home against FC Goa. It’s a vital match for their playoffs chances and with this being their final home game for a long time, they’ll want to pick up a win. Goa are coming off a disappointing loss to Bengaluru and will look to take out their frustrations on the Kolkata outfit’s topsy-turvy defence and produce another masterclass.

These two have faced each other 9 times in the ISL, with ATK winning four and the Gaurs only winning one. Goa have also drawn three matches, while ATK have lost one.

ATK will operate with their 4-2-3-1 formation, but could adopt a more defensive approach against the terrorizing attack of Goa. The Kolkata side have been defensively solid in the last matches and need to retain that and hit the Gaurs on the counter and through set-pieces to get something out of the game.

Balwant will look to threaten from the left flank for ATK, while Nawaz will be between the sticks for Goa

The Gaurs will possibly get in Edu Bedia, who was a big miss against Bengaluru. They’ll also employ a 4-2-3-1 formation, but with a more attacking approach.

Lanzarote plays against his former side and will look to make a big impression in the match. He’ll look to use his set-piece prowess and creativity to show the Gaurs what they’re missing.

Ferran Corominas has a terrific goalscoring record away from home and will look to make a big impact in the City of Joy. The striker’s unpredictability in the final third makes him impossible to mark.

Chennaiyin FC Vs Kerala Blasters FC

Date: 29th November/ Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM IST/ Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar.

Chennaiyin FC’s slight rise was dimmed when they lost to Jamshedpur, but they’ll look to bounce back in the Southern Derby. In what is a vital match for both teams, Chennaiyin and Kerala will give it their absolute best to earn the crucial three points.

Five games between these two sides have been stalemates. Chennaiyin have won three, while Kerala Blasters have won twice against their regional rivals.

Chennaiyin will go with their staple 4-2-3-1 formation, but will need to be better on all fronts to contain Kerala. They have excellent attacking potential, but it’s their weak defence which has let them down this season.

Thapa will be expected to dictate play for Chennaiyin, Jhingan will lead Kerala

David James’ newfound 3-5-2 formation should be on display against Chennaiyin and he’ll hope the cramped defence can frustrate the opponents. However, his own players need to be better going forward and be clinical in front of goal.

Jeje Lalpekhlua is under immense pressure to come through this season and what better way to make an impact than in a derby. The Mizo Sniper’s impressive goalscoring record and work in the final third is well-known, but he needs to prove that by putting in an emphatic performance against the Blasters.

Sahal Abdul Samad has arguably been Kerala’s most diverse midfielder this season, having the capability to create from midfield. Against the intimidating duo of Anirudh Thapa and Germanpreet Singh, Samad will look to make an impact by creating some goals.


Bengaluru FC Vs FC Pune City

Date & Venue: 30th November/ Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM IST/ Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar.

Bengaluru’s cruise to the top continued with some dominant wins last week. Pune City aren’t the best away from home this season, but their recent unpredictability could trouble the Blues.

Bengaluru have won one match out of their three meetings against Pune City last season, The other two were draws.

Carlos Cuadrat will employ the similar 4-2-3-1 formation which prevailed Bengaluru in the last few matches. With Miku injured, Chencho Gyeltshen will look to link-up with his attackers.

Chencho is expected to start upfront for Bengaluru, while Mills will lead the backline for Pune

Pune City could deploy a more defensive approach, but should stick to their 4-2-3-1 formation which has been working well. The Stallions will need to be defensively solid to keep out Bengaluru’s unrelenting attack.

Sunil Chhetri’s love-story with the Sree Kanteerava is a beautiful tale in its own right and he’ll look to continue that by producing another great performance against Pune. Chhetri’s looking as dangerous as ever on the left flank, with his movement and goalscoring ability sure to test the opposition’s resolve on Friday.  

Ashique Kuruniyan has been Pune’s brightest attacker this season, with his pace and work on the left. Ashique will definitely test Rahul Bheke with his impressive counter-attacking ability and an eye for creating as well as scoring goals.

Jamshedpur FC Vs NorthEast United FC

Date & Venue: 01st December/ JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM IST/ Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar.

Jamshedpur FC’s record at home has been fantastic this season. The Highlanders will need to be better defensively, but their own impressive record away from home could work in their favour.

The Men of Steel are unbeaten against NorthEast United so far, winning one out of their three meetings, with the other two being stalemates.

Cesar Ferrando should go with an unchanged lineup against the Highlanders, playing the attack-minded 4-2-3-1 formation. Jamshedpur’s impressive foreigners and fluid movement upfront make them even more dangerous at home.

Soosairaj will aim to threaten for the Jharkhand-based side, while Ogbeche will lead NEUFC’s attack

NorthEast United should also go with an unchanged lineup, but will need to be strong in the middle and defensively solid against the packed attack of Jamshedpur. However, they have a strong front four themselves, who can cause problems with their unpredictability and will definitely take the game to the home side.

Tim Cahill will mostly get a start against NorthEast and has much to prove after a blank run. Jamshedpur’s “marquee” player still has much left in the tank, with his intelligence in the penalty area and foxy scoring ability making him a dangerous man to contain for any team.

However, Bartholomew Ogbeche will want to prevail in the battle of the strikers. Ogbeche’s having a dream season and will want to go past Corominas as the season’s top-scorer.