The race for the top four will boil down to the final gameweek of the season (article updated on February 23).
With just 11 more matches remaining in the league stage of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL), we have officially reached the final lap of the league. While current table-toppers ATK Mohun Bagan and second-placed Mumbai City have already qualified for the playoffs, the race for the next two spots in the standings is still on with as many as three teams battling it out to see who else makes it to the next stage.
In this article, we take a detailed look into the playoffs qualification prospects of each of the seven teams that have realistic chances of making it.
ATK Mohun Bagan FC and Mumbai City FC
We will be considering ATKMB and MCFC separately because they have already qualified for the playoffs and are in a race of their own. Both teams are now battling it out with each other for the top spot on the points table, which would make them eligible to secure a berth in the AFC Champions League.
With 40 points from 19 matches, ATK Mohun Bagan are at the top of the ISL points table. But, Mumbai City are not very far apart, at 34 points from 18 games. The Mariners can claim the ACL spot if they win or draw their one remaining league game against MCFC. If they lose, their fate will depend on the Islanders’ results.
MCFC, meanwhile, also have a chance of making it into the ACL, if they win all of their remaining two games one of which is against ATKMB. That is the final league stage game of the season and the winner is most likely to qualify for the AFC Champions League, as things stand.
Hyderabad FC, FC Goa, NorthEast United
At the time of writing, each of Goa, Hyderabad and NorthEast United are at 30, 28 and 27 points respectively. Winning their remaining games will ensure the playoffs for each of these teams. But, one of those games has Hyderabad taking on Goa, so there can only be one winner.
If Hyderabad and NorthEast win, both teams qualify, as FC Goa will finish at 30 points. If Goa and NorthEast win, both teams qualify, as the Nizams will finish at 28 points. So, all that the Highlanders need to do to qualify is to win both their games.
A loss or a draw for Hyderabad and FC Goa in their final game against each other will put a dent on both teams’ chances. In such a case, NorthEast will climb to third place, if they win both matches and HFC and FCG will battle each other for the fourth and final playoffs spot. If that game also ends in a draw or a win for FCG. they will qualify. HFC must win if they have to qualify for the playoffs.
If all three teams win once and draw once in their last two games, their points will be identical once again. In such a scenario, NEUFC will finish last, as they have only three points from the four games against Goa and Hyderabad. So both teams will qualify, while the Highlanders will be eliminated from the race.
**The final position of a club in the league table (when all clubs have played all their league matches) is determined in this order:
1. Most number of points obtained in all league matches
2. If two or more clubs are equal on the basis of the above criteria, their place shall be determined as follows:
- Most number of points obtained in the league matches between the clubs concerned
- Superior goal difference resulting from league matches between the clubs concerned
- Most number of goals scored in the league matches between the clubs concerned
- Superior goal difference in all league matches
- Most number of goals scored in all the league matches
- Highest fair play ranking
- Drawing of lots by league