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Top five things to look out for in ISL Phase 2

Written by: Waseem Zaidi

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Currently, Bengaluru FC lead the pack, followed by Mumbai, Goa, and NorthEast.

After a short international break, the Indian Super League is back now! The competition is now set to resume from 25th January onwards, with Kerala Blasters set to host ATK. The upcoming set of fixtures will be crucial for certain teams; the ones in the top-four of the table and the sides still in the race for the playoff positions.

Therefore, we shift our focus towards the upcoming ISL fixtures and what to keep an eye out for:

5. Returning Indian national team players from the AFC Asian Cup

Eyes will be on top performers from the Asian Cup such as Sandesh Jhingan, Sunil Chhetri and Ashique Kuriniyan

The Blue Tigers performed well despite getting knocked out in the group stages. After defeating Thailand 1-4, it seemed India were destined to create history. However, after two narrow defeats to the UAE and Bahrain, Indian hopes and dreams crashed and resulted in their elimination from the tournament.

Consequently, the Indian squad has returned home and the players involved will go back to representing their respective clubs in the ISL. Expectations will be high from the returning players since they proved their mettle against tough opposition and produced decent performances.

Eyes will be on top performers at the Asian Cup, such as Sandesh Jhingan, Sunil Chhetri and Ashique Kuriniyan who will don the colours of Kerala Blasters, Bengaluru FC and FC Pune City respectively. Will the players make a difference or will fatigue catch up with them? The questions will be answered once the league commences.

4. Race for top-four playoff spots

Bengaluru FC are comfortably sitting at the top of the table, with 27 points from 11 games played, they are almost assured of a playoff spot given they pick up from where they left off. As for the other three spots, they're all up for grabs and the competition will be intense.

With only five points separating second-placed Mumbai City from fifth-placed Jamshedpur FC, there is no room for error. The Islanders are second in the standings on 24 points, followed by FC Goa and NorthEast United on 20 points each in third and fourth positions respectively. The Men of Steel trail the top-four in fifth place, with 19 points from 12 fixtures.

The stage is set for a sensational final sprint to qualify for the playoffs. Each club will fancy their chances and will go all guns blazing in order to seal one of the four slots. Sixth-placed ATK on 16 points also have an outside chance, given they win all of their remaining fixtures. Easier said than done!


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3. Kerala Blasters after the exit of David James

After enduring a horrible start to the season and a humiliating 6-1 defeat against Mumbai City, David James was relieved of his duties as head coach of Kerala Blasters. The two-time runners-up find themselves languishing in eighth position in the standings, with only one victory in 12 matches.

The Yellow Army will play under new manager Nelo Vingada, who will be looking to bring a change of mood and instil confidence in an otherwise massively talented squad. The onus will be on their captain, Sandesh Jhingan, to inspire his fellow comrades and lead from the-front, especially after having a decent outing for the Blue Tigers in the Asian Cup.

Perhaps the break came at the right time for the struggling Blasters who will now look to start afresh and finish this campaign on a positive note.

2. Race for the Golden Boot

Goa's Ferran Corominas leads the race with 10 goals

Thanks to some exceptional attacking football on display by the clubs and some incredible individual performances, there has been no lack of entertainment and goals.

Among other individual accolades, it’s the Golden Boot that gets the most attention. Having won the honour last year with 20 goals in 23 games, Spaniard Ferran Corominas leads the scoring charts yet again with 10 goals in as many games for FC Goa.

He is closely followed by Moudou Sougou of MCFC and Bartholomew Ogbeche of NEUFC, who are tied on nine goals each. The highest scoring Indian in this edition is Sunil Chhetri with five goals to his name. Expect all the above-mentioned players to add more goals to their tally once the ISL resumes. It is hard to guess who will come out on top due to the break, although, it’s bound to be a close finish.

1. Bengaluru’s dominance and ongoing unbeaten run.

The Blues finished at the top of the table in the last edition after the regular season, but failed to defeat Chennaiyin FC in the final. Picking up from where they left off, BFC again lead the points table in the ongoing edition of the league.

Infact, they are yet to taste defeat this season, having won eight and drawn three of the 11 matches played, The Blues have outplayed every opposition and have looked unplayable at times. They have the squad and the personnel at their disposal to maintain their unbeaten run till the end of the campaign. Only time will tell if Bengaluru FC will write history and become the first-ever club to remain unbeaten for the whole season of the ISL.

Published: Fri Jan 18, 2019 10:44 PM IST

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