Hero ISL 2022-23: What to look forward to in Matchweek 19
As the business end of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 approaches, teams are gearing up to reap the rewards of their hard work. Looking to secure the points, fight for their pride and make history along the way, Matchweek 19 brings the spectacle on the field.
Matchweek 18 saw Bengaluru FC make their way into the playoff spots for the first time in the season, Mumbai City FC moved one step closer to the League Shield trophy and five teams left to fight for the last four spots in the playoffs with just five points differentiating the respective teams.
MW18 takeaways: Mumbai City FC close in on the Sheild, Bengaluru FC's timely streak
Odisha FC host FC Goa in the opening fixture of Matchweek 19, followed by Kerala Blasters FC welcoming Chennaiyin FC in Kochi.
East Bengal and NorthEast United FC lock horns on Wednesday and Hyderabad FC go against ATK Mohun Bagan. Matchweek 19 concludes with Bengaluru FC welcoming Mumbai City FC in Bangalore.
This Matchweek is split in two parts with the first three games and the final two matches sandwiching Matchweek 20.
With exciting fixtures lined up, here are the key narratives to keep an eye on in the upcoming Matchweek:
FC Goa stand in Odisha FC's way to the playoffs
Odisha FC dropped out of the top six after the Juggernauts failed to secure three points against Chennaiyin FC. Meanwhile, FC Goa are coming to the fixture following a break in Matchweek 18.
Josep Gombau's men have only won once in the last eight matches. The pressure is piling on the Juggernauts with the team losing grip on things in the most crucial period of the season. FC Goa would look to continue stringing up strong performances going into the last few matches after securing two consecutive victories in the last two outings.
"Need at least seven more points to reach the playoffs," Josep Gombau said in the pre-match press conference ahead of the fixture against the Gaurs. Meanwhile, Carlos Pena sounded confident ahead of the fixture and said "We are confident because we are playing well" in the pre-match press conference.
Kerala Blasters FC looking to break Chennaiyin FC's hearts
Kerala Blasters FC look comfortable in the third spot in the Hero ISL points table with Chennaiyin FC sitting five positions below Ivan Vukomanovic's side.
Both teams are having their work cut off with the Yellow Army earning only three points in the last four outings and the Marina Machans are winless in the last seven with their last victory coming in December. Thomas Bradaric's men are seven points off from the playoff spots and things are looking grim for the team from Chennai.
Head coach Brdaric was proud of his team after an inspired performance against Odisha FC in the last match and said "There is no time to sit and complain" as the Marina Machans look to earn their first victory against Kerala Blasters FC in the last three meetings in Hero ISL. Vukomanovic called on his team to convert the chances they get after the defeat against East Bengal FC in the last fixture.
The Battle of Pride for East Bengal FC and NorthEast United FC
With both teams falling off the pace for the playoffs the Red and Gold Brigade and the Highlanders would look to do justice to their hard work and aim for the three points to finish as high as they can on the Hero ISL points table.
East Bengal FC came out victorious in the reverse fixture with a 3-1 scoreline in October. Stephen Constantine's men would be looking to claim their sixth win of the season, on the other hand, NorthEast United FC would look to fight for their second victory of the season under head coach Vincenzo Annese. The Red and Gold Brigade put up a brave team effort in the last fixture against Kerala Blasters FC as the team's talisman Cleiton Silva scored the only goal of the fixture taking his goalscoring tally to 10 goals in 16 matches.
The Highlanders head coach demanded more from his players following the defeat against Jamshedpur FC and stated " We need to believe in our performance for the next game". Constantine labelled "This is what my team looks like" after the Torch Bearers marked their first-ever victory against Kerala Blasters FC.
Can ATK Mohun Bagan repeat the last meeting's heroics
When both teams met at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in November, Juan Ferrando's men handed the second defeat of the season to Manolo Marquez's men, since then the defending champions have been on an eight-match unbeaten run.
Two in-form strikers leading the attack for the team with Bartholomew Ogbeche scoring five goals in the last six matches and Dimitri Petratos scoring three goals in the last two matches. Both teams share the podium in the fewest goals conceded in the current Hero ISL season with Hyderabad FC topping the charts with only 10 goals scored against them in the last 16 matches and the Mariners sit in second place with 15 goals conceded in the last 16 matches.
Marquez's side sit comfortably in second place having already qualified for the playoffs but ATK Mohun Bagan are still in the mix with three teams in touching distance. Ferrando insisted on following the process and getting the results after the defeat against Bengaluru FC in the last match.
Resurgence against Longevity
In the last fixture of Matchweek 19, two teams with different objectives lock horns as resurgent Bengaluru FC take on leaders Mumbai City FC.
Simon Grayson's men have peaked at the right time of the season with five consecutive victories which have seen the Blues make a late charge for the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Islanders continue to make history on their way to claiming the League Shield trophy. Des Buckingham's men are unbeaten after 17 matches and just a win away to secure the League Shield mathematically. The fixture has turned out to be one of the most exciting games of the season with one team aiming to continue an epic comeback while the other looks to assert its dominance over the league.
Grayson's side have entered the top six but sits only two points clear of seventh-placed Odisha FC. The Blues head coach stated that he has found the strongest team of the season and called on his players to stay humble and keep working after the victory against ATK Mohun Bagan in the last fixture.