As we enter the second half of the season things are becoming interesting and every game means something in the race for those coveted top four spots.

A big week of the Indian Super League awaits, as league leaders Chennaiyin FC would love to maintain their top spot when they take a trip to the struggling NorthEast United who are sitting in the bottom half of the table. ATK travel to Pune and Kerala Blasters will try to get into the top four as they welcome the Gaurs.

Within a spell of five days, Jamshedpur face jubilant Kerala Blaster and under pressure Delhi Dynamos, who are at the bottom of the table with seven points from 10 games. The biggest game of the week will be at the Mumbai Football Arena when the two metropolis clubs Mumbai City and Bengaluru FC clash in the financial capital of India.

Jamshedpur Vs Kerala Blasters

Date & Venue: 17th January/ JRD TATA Sports Complex, Jamshedpur

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

Before starting the season, the former Manchester United winger was expected to remain at the Blasters as their head coach, but instead, Steve Coppell went on to join the newly established Jamshedpur. It is no secret that Kerala were in talks with the former Manchester City manager well before the current season began over extending his stay as the manager. Now the time has come for the Englishman to show the Tuskers what they have been missing.

Blasters who will be playing awayare currently sitting in the 6th position with 14 points. This season, Kerala look shaky on the road as they have managed only two wins away from home. Their three away defeats came at the hands of Goa, Bengaluru and Mumbai, though they managed to grab all three points in Delhi. Meanwhile, Jamshedpur’s home form has been dreadful, as they have not won a single game at home and managed to draw two games out of a possible five.

It was a goalless draw when both the teams met for the first time earlier season. However, looking at their current form goals are a certainty.

Iain Hume will be the man to watch for the Blasters. Not only is he the all-time highest scorer of the ISL, but he has also managed to score a hat-trick against the Dynamos. The powerful attack needs a strong defender and fortunately, Jamshedpur has the right man to stop Kerala’s Hume. André Bikey is the muscular defender in the heart of the Jamshedpur defence, who has given consistent performances this season.

Mumbai City FC Vs Bengaluru FC

Date & Venue: 18th January/Mumbai Footbal Arena, Mumbai

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

The Islanders will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they take on Bengaluru at home. After two back-to-back wins against Kerala and ATK, Bengaluru surprisingly went down to bottom-placed Delhi in the last match. Mumbai, on the other hand, have dropped four important points in the last two matches which also saw them fall out of the top four positions.

However, If the Mumbaikars are looking to damage the visitors they will surely exhort Balwant Singh to score a goal and he will be largely influential in moulding the way the game turns out for Mumbai, while Miku might wreak havoc for the visitors who were left frustrated in Delhi.

Mumbai City went gung-ho in attack against Kerala Blasters but would look to maintain a more composed defensive shape against superior opponents in the form of Bengaluru. The Blues, on the other hand, will totally rely on the likes of Chhetri in attack and will look to press hard from deep in the midfield. It doesn’t seem that there is any chance of formation changes and both will hold on to their 4-3-3 style.

Bengaluru had started their maiden ISL campaign with a fluent 2-0 win over Mumbai back in November, however, it will be interesting to see if the former I-League champions can repeat their show in the other metropolis.

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NorthEast United Vs Chennaiyin FC

Date & Venue: 19th December/ Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati

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

It will be a clash between the table-toppers and bottom-placed team when the Highlanders host the Marina Machans in Guwahati. Though. NorthEast have lost to ATK in the last match, it will be difficult for the former champions to register an easy win against them. Chennaiyin are unbeaten in the last five matches, and they have recently defeated one of the strongest teams, Pune in their last match.

Brazilian playmaker Marcinho will once again be the centre of attraction for NEUFC. So far he’s been the standout player for the inconsistent Highlanders in whatever they have managed to achieve and he would like to better the record books. Whereas, Seiminlen Doungel will also play an important role for the Highlanders. After missing the last home game, Len looks fresh to start again. The pacy Manipuri forward would hope to find the back of the net once again against the Southern rivals.

Meanwhile, the Soth Indian team will most likely to rely on Dhanpal Ganesh, the defensive midfielder has been bookmarked by every Indian football fan of late. He has stood tall to his defensive duties and isn’t shy to push forward occasionally and He will defiantly look to impress once again. Whereas, Jeje Lalpekhlua will be the main lethal weapon for the Chennaiyin against NortEast. This India international from Mizoram will look to make his presence felt in Guwahati. His goal scoring prowess is something that will give the home team a headache. Alongside Gregory Nelson, this partnership looks lethal on any day.

Despite a change in personnel in the management, Northeast side looks the same old team with rusty gameplay. Although the team looks sharper and has shown the hunger to do well, it hasn’t paid off yet.  John Gregory’s attacking gameplay will be a major test for the Highlanders backline. However, they will be wary of the home team’s surprise frontman in Marcinho, Danilo and the local forwards in Holi and Len.

Chennaiyin had the upper hand when both the teams met last time in the Southern state of India, however, the Highlander will definitely look for a revenge from the last 0-3 defeat. 

FC Pune City Vs ATK

Date & Venue: 20th December/ Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Pune

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

FC Pune City host ATK at the Balewadi stadium on Saturday. The Stallions will come into the game after a shock defeat to Chennaiyin FC, eventually ending their impressive unbeaten away game record. The home team would love to turn the tables against a struggling ATK who are getting some results in the bag and nearly missing out on some big chances when it comes to snatching points. The game of the Kolkata team has definitely improved but that might not be enough to take on a team like FC Pune City.

Pune City FC ran amok the last time they met each other

However, their unpredictable journey took another turn when Popovic’s side lost an away game for the first time this season, and with players coming back from injuries as well as suspensions, expect Pune to go all guns blazing. He will defiantly look for a repeat of the last clash between the two teams which ended in thumping 4-1 victory for the Stallions

Though Pune lost five important points in the last two matches, they still managed to stay in the 3rd position with 16 points from 10 matches, whereas ATK are struggling at the bottom half with just 12 points from nine outings.

For Pune, in a team full of star names, expect the dark horse of the team Gurtej Singh pair up with Rafa Gomez to keep dangerous forwards like Zequinha at bay. The defence has lately improved tremendously, plus goalkeeper Vishal Kaith looks confident after saving a penalty in the last game. So the Indian defender can prove out to be the crucial factor in this game. While Ryan Taylor has provided an instant impact in the team’s transition for ATK this season. The likes of Robbie Keane and Zequinha have also started shining due to the presence of the former Newcastle United man. Expect this man to provide dangerous through balls which can be a sign of concern for the Pune defenders.


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Jamshedpur FC Vs Delhi Dynamos

Date & Venue: 21st January/ JRD TATA Sports Complex, Jamshedpur

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

It will be just a gap of four days when Jamshedpur will once again feature in the week at home and this time they will lock horns with Delhi. The head coach Coppell will be under tremendous pressure as he will have to maintain the squad fitness as they will travel down to Maharashtra to face Pune in the next three day soon after taking on the Lions.  Whereas, Delhi coach Miguel Portugal will be hoping for another shocking result after defeating Bengaluru in their last match.

Earlier in December, Jamshedpur had edged out the Lions to register their first win of the season but looking at Delhi’s current form, it will be difficult for the Englishman to expect an easy win in the Steel City. 

Delhi will highly reliable on winger Romeo Fernandes. The Goan right winger has been outstanding for the national capital club with his solid performances and link up play with fullback Pritam Kotal. In the last couple of match, Romeo took more chances to the goal than of the players from his team. Despite not netting any this season, he make frequent runs up forward and his defensive arsenal allows Kotal to contribute in the final third. His link up with him is tremendous and that is evident as most of the attack is initiated through the Right Wing.

Whereas, the Brazillian Trindade Goncalves will the man to watch for the Men of Steel. The number 8 of the Tata club have had a rather silent season so far but his performances in the last few games make it a treat for everybody to watch. In the 65 minutes he played against FC Goa last week, he scored a goal and had a sublime game overall. Trindade usually stays calm and is very precise with his passing when playing within the hole.

Kerala Blasters Vs FC Goa

Date & Venue: 21st January/ Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi

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

The weekend will end with a highly anticipated clash between the two coastal sides. The Guars has trashed Manjappada by 5-2 in the last meeting in Goa but playing at Kerala’s home is always difficult fixture for the away team. However, coach Sergio Lobera will be high on confidence after getting back to winning ways as they had defeated Jamshedpur in the last match.


#GOAKER produced one of the highest scoring games of all seasons

Kerala, on the other hand, are unbeaten in the last three matches. They have recently edged out Mumbai in the away match, and the recently appointed head coach David James will look to continue with the same result in front of home fans.

FC Goa head coach Lobera’s biggest challenge will be to clip the Canadian’s wings. Hume has found new energy after David James took the hot seat at Blasters. Apart from scoring four goals in three matches, he has created four goalscoring opportunities and had eight shots on target. Whereas, The Spanish midfielder Manuel Lanzarote is having a dream campaign for the Gaurs with seven goals and four assists so far. The midfield-lynchpin, who struck a brace against Jamshedpur, played an instrumental role in their thumping win over Blasters at home in December.

C K Vineeth’s return from injury could see Courage Peksuon returning to his favourite No.10 role. Meanwhile, the impressive January signing Kizito Keziron, deployed as anchorman, will keep his place in the starting XI. With Blasters playing two games in five days, it will be interesting to see if James rotates his backline which includes a 38-year-old Wes Brown. 

Lobera is unlikely to tinker with the starting line-up that ended three-game winless run. The Indian duo of Brandon Fernandes’, who set up Lanzarote his second goal against Jamshedpur FC, and Mandar Rao Dessai will pose a major headache for Blasters backline. The FC Goa boss will also be hoping Lanzarote and Ferran Corominas to repeat the performances in their 5-2 win over Blasters in Goa.