FC Pune City, Kerala Blasters, Delhi Dynamos and defending champions Chennaiyin have struggled to find their momentum this season.
The battle at the top in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is getting intriguing by the day. Bengaluru FC’s loss against Mumbai City on Sunday, their first this season, has opened up many possibilities and there are six teams who believe they have the right to qualify for the all-important play-offs.
Mumbai City, Bengaluru FC, NorthEast United FC, FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC and ATK are all battling for a place among the top-four. So, what about the rest? For the remainder of the ISL season, how will the bottom-ranked teams approach? Will they give up, or is there too much of pride at stake?
“When the team doesn’t do well, it is down to me as the head coach to take responsibility. It has been a season of missed chances, not taking our opportunities. I have to accept responsibility for the outcome of this season,” said Chennaiyin coach John Gregory.
Chennaiyin have looked like a totally different side to the one that knocked out favourites Bengaluru FC in the final last year. Their defence of the ISL title got off to a winless start. They had to endure a six-game wait for their only win so far and are currently on a six-game winless streak, one which John Gregory will be desperate to break, with the AFC Cup fast-approaching.
Kerala Blasters and Delhi Dynamos have also registered just one win so far this season while Pune have three wins in their kitty and are highest on the table among these four teams with 11 points. However, they are well away from the last playoff spot, currently occupied by FC Goa with 20 points from 11 matches.
Although chances of reaching the playoffs are all but over for all four, there is pride at stake. They will look to avoid finishing at the bottom of the table and would want to give their dedicated supporters something to cherish in the remaining matches.
“We have deserved to win a lot of games earlier. In terms of football, we have done well,” said Delhi Dynamos coach Josep Gombau, whose team has only one win in their pocket, although they have been dominant for many matches.
The long break will help these clubs – two of them with new coaches – to start all over again and the business end provides them with a chance to redeem themselves.