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ISL Week 15 Preview: Teams jostle for positions in ISL playoffs musical chairs

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar


Goa, Kerala, Mumbai and the incumbent top four all face important games this week.

The Penultimate rounds of the league season of the Indian Super League is upon us as the table seems to be getting even tighter in the top half, with five teams still being in contention to make the playoffs. While Bengaluru FC recently sealed their qualification for the knockout rounds, the teams below them are still fighting to oust each other and book their place into the knockout stages.

While FC Pune City and Chennaiyin FC seem to be favourites for ensuring their qualification soon, the likes of Jamshedpur FC, Kerala Blasters and FC Goa still have a chance at making the top 4 in the end of the season. The upcoming days will be key in deciding the fate of these teams, as we take a look at what the ISL has in store for us this week.

FC Goa Vs Delhi Dynamos

Date & Venue: 21st February/ Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa

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

FC Goa saw their top 4 hopes dented with their crushing loss at home to Chennaiyin FC last week, which saw the Gaurs fall down to 6th in the table. They need to recover quickly if they aspire to make it to the playoffs and will need to display the kind of stunning football which made them table-toppers earlier in the season.

With Mumbai City breathing down their necks, Goa will need to perform to their best against the poor Delhi Dynamos who are in decent form now. It should be easy enough for Coro & co knowing their attacking force, and the Gaurs will want to bounce back with a bang and provide the crowd with some scintillating football.

Delhi Dynamos have picked up their form after having a terrible first half of the season in ISL, but constant draws and dropped points had destroyed their chances of another top 4 finish weeks ago.

The Dynamos might be the underdogs heading into their bout against FC Goa, but they did shock FC Pune City away from home earlier this season and will look to do something similar against the Gaurs. Dynamos would not want to finish at the very bottom of the league and will need to show a late charge and play on the attack to have a respectable finish to a disappointing campaign.

Mumbai City FC Vs NorthEast United

Date & Venue: 22nd February/ Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai

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

Mumbai City FC got three very important points against ATK at the weekend which reignited their playoff dreams, but the Blues will treat each of their remaining matches like a final to have a chance at making the knockout stages. With NorthEast United being in a draught state right now, Alexander Guimaraes' side will look to play some dominating, exciting brand of football and continue their charge towards a mid-table finish.

The Blues will need to play every game like it's a final if they're to win their remaining games, but at this point, their primary motive is to entertain the fans and send them home happy with a destructive performance against the struggling NorthEast side.

NorthEast United are having all the problems in the world right now being winless in six and having lost the faith and support of their own fans over the past few weeks. With problems in management and future of the club being up in the air, the NorthEast players look in disarray in the field and even Avram Grant doesn't seem to have helped their cause.

Despite their awful form, NorthEast will want to finish their season on a high and a shock win against Mumbai can do all the good towards their confident. The Highlanders will want to give something back to their faithful fans and if they can show the exciting football of the NorthEast of old in the remaining games, they could win back the trust of many fans.

Kerala Blasters Vs Chennaiyin FC

Date & Venue: 23rd February/ Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi

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

Friday Night Football serves up arguably the most heated battle in the Indian Super League this season, with Kerala Blasters looking to take a step closer to getting into the top 4 in the ISL table. When these sides met last in December, they played out a game which saw some late drama with goals in final few minutes cancelling out both teams.

Kerala will need to continue their impressive form over the past few weeks, but they'll need to be wary of Chennaiyin who are pretty good away from home. It'll take something special from the local lads to thwart Chennaiyin and help the Manjapadda get the bragging rights with a win.

On the other hand, Chennaiyin FC only need a win or two to confirm their own place in the knockout rounds of the Indian Super League for the 3rd time in 4 editions, but an away game against Kerala is always a daunting task. The Super Machans will need to ignore the hostile atmosphere and remain calm throughout the game, as John Gregory's side have shown themselves to be calculated and clinical away from home.

They'll look to continue their impressive away ventures with another complete team performance and this crucial win could not only ensure their qualification but make it even sweeter for them by denting Kerala's chances at making the playoffs.

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Delhi Dynamos Vs ATK

Date & Venue: 24th February/ Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi

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

In the bottom of the table on Saturday Night, Delhi Dynamos look to give a weekend treat to their fans by playing some stunning football at their home. ATK are themselves dangling at the bottom and haven't won a game since Teddy Sheringham's sacking and the defending champions aren't as dominant as they were.

The Dynamos will look to use this to their advantage and pressurize ATK by playing some free-flowing, fluid football through their vibrant attackers. The Lions look to go over the Champions in the table and aim for a respectable outcome in this game where they have nothing to lose.

ATK might not have had the most memorable season in the ISL this time, but they will look to treat their fans to something by doing something exciting in their final few games of the season. Travelling to the capital at the weekend, things will not be easy for the defending champions who have been shaky defensively all season.

But knowing the Dynamos' own perils, ATK can thwart them by playing some fast-paced attacking football and use their wingers to their advantage. A loss could see ATK slipping down to 9th in the table which would be extremely embarrassing, so they'll have to show some intent and get a result to avoid even more humiliation this season.

FC Pune City Vs FC Goa

Date & Venue: 25th February/ Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Pune

Time & Broadcast: 05:30 PM/ Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD & Hotstar

It's going be a battle between attack and defence in this match as FC Pune City have asserted themselves as a solid side defensively in this campaign. While they've been lethal in the counter-attack and clinical in finishing, The Stallions are having a remarkable campaign due to their defensive core and will look to contain the dangerous attack of Goa with it.

 FC Pune need a few more points to confirm their qualification for the playoffs and will play some attractive football to treat their faithful. They'll also look to sink Goa's own chances at making the playoffs and the Stallions could take a mighty step towards their inaugural playoffs qualification if they manage to thwart the Gaurs.

FC Goa will need to treat each game as a final if they hope to qualify for the playoffs among all the competition for it in the ISL stages in these final stages and their daunting task away to Pune is nothing short of a final itself. Not many teams have been capable of taking away points from Pune's den this time, but Goa will need to change that and their sizzling attacking core will need to perform for them to win.

The likes of Coro, Lanzarote and Mandar Rao Dessai will all need to turn up to make things uneasy for the Stallions, as a win against Pune could be crucial for FC Goa's chances and heat up the competitiveness for the top 4 spot even more.

Jamshedpur FC Vs Bengaluru FC

Date & Venue: 25th February/ Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar

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

Jamshedpur FC have proved to be a tough nut to crack this season thanks to the heroics of their goalkeeper Subrata Paul and strong defenders and have been the surprise package of the ISL this season. Jamshedpur have silenced doubters and look favourites to make the playoffs right now in their inaugural season, but they'll have to earn a win against Bengaluru FC on Sunday.

BFC will not be an easy opponent for Jamshedpur and Steve Coppell's men will have to be equally strong defensively and on the attack to earn a win. With some sparks being formed in their gameplay, Jamshedpur will look to maintain a lead over Kerala & Goa with a win against BFC which could be decisive for their chances at progressing through to the knockout rounds.

While Bengaluru FC might have already qualified for the knockout rounds of the Indian Super League, they have never been a team to sit back and play games with complacency. It's without a doubt that Bengaluru will look to get a win against Jamshedpur, who might need a win more than the Blues, but they'll have to earn it.

Bengaluru might rest some players due to their AFC cup duties, but Albert Roca will play his best XI possible and continue proving why his team is the best in the ISL. Bengaluru will continue playing some beautiful attacking football and help Miku assert his position as potential Golden Boot winner this season and the Blues will look to win each and every match to finish the league season at first place.

Published: Tue Feb 20, 2018 07:14 PM IST


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