FC Goa and Mohun Bagan share equal number of points at the top but are separated only by goal difference.
One of the critical decisions taken regarding Indian football this season was the roadmap that was laid for the future of the two leagues: Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League. For the past few years, there remained a sense of curiosity over whether a complete integration of these two competitions would ever take place. As things stand, the Indian Super League is higher up in hierarchy and hence the league-leaders earn a qualification to the next season’s AFC Champions League too.
Currently, there are a combined 21 clubs playing in both these leagues and they already have their respective winners for the season – FC Goa (ISL) and Mohun Bagan (I-League).
However, Mohun Bagan, who emerged as the I-League champions are tied in terms of points with FC Goa at the top of the table. Whilst the two teams have bagged 39 points each, the Mariners have played only 16 matches in comparison to the Gaurs’ 18. Interestingly, the ISL league-stage winners are superior to their I-League counterparts only by a single point of goal difference.
The present I-League campaign was brought to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak. It is fitting that Bagan would be a part of the ISL from next season onward as a part of the joint ATK-Mohun Bagan merger. However, barring Mohun Bagan, no other I-League team makes it to the top seven places of our joint league table. In fact, the only other three clubs who have registered their names in the top half of the table are East Bengal, Punjab and Real Kashmir. They have occupied the eighth, ninth and the tenth spots respectively. East Bengal and Punjab have 2 games in hand whereas Real Kashmir have 3 games in hand in comparison to ISL clubs.
It is not entirely surprising that many followers have pinned their hopes on East Bengal and Punjab to make an entry to the ISL in the recent future. A growing pattern that can be observed here is that the success of the clubs from I-League is increasingly being judged in comparison with their counterparts from the ISL.
Whilst the upper half of the pyramid remains dominated with clubs from the Super League, the situation in the other part is quite different. In the last five slots, i.e. from 17 to 21, stand three ISL clubs including Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United and Hyderabad FC. Aizawl FC is placed in the 18th position in the standings. Interestingly, they have played three matches lesser than Hyderabad and NorthEast. Yet, they have notched 16 points in comparison to NorthEast’s 14 and Hyderabad’s 10.
On the other hand, four I-League clubs namely Gokulam Kerala, TRAU FC, Chennai City FC and Churchill Brothers are placed in the 11th to 14th spots in the table. All of them have played lesser matches than the 15th place occupants, Kerala Blasters.
Another peculiar conclusion that can be drawn by this situation is that a remarkable number of I-League clubs are knocking the door to make their way to the big stage. However, currently they are falling short on certain parameters definitely. One of those criteria could be the lack of a concrete financial backing, something that the ISL clubs have managed to attain with the aid of the FSDL.
In terms of sheer performances though, a riveting scenario arises if we look at sixth-placed Mumbai City FC and tenth-spot lodgers Real Kashmir FC. The Islanders won 26 points from 18 encounters. The Snow Leopards, on the other hand, have picked 22 from 15 matches. If they could have gone on to complete their season, they definitely would have stood a firm chance of trouncing Mumbai in our joint league table.
The same stands true if we take Odisha FC and East Bengal into consideration. The Red & Yellow Brigade are separated by only two points from Odisha but they have played merely a couple of matches lesser than them.
And so, we end up analysing the combined table of the two leagues which shall remain the same unless the remaining games of the I-League are decided to be completed.