Hero ISL semi-finals race going down to the wire
FC Goa and ATK FC are guaranteed a top-two finish but the ultimate cast for the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 semi-finals hinge on some intriguing final-week league fixtures. Defending champions Bengaluru FC have also sealed qualification into the knockouts as Mumbai City, Chennaiyin FC and even Odisha FC hang onto their hopes of locking down on a coveted top-four finish.
The Hero ISL, having been accorded the status of India’s top division this season onwards has added to the footballing charm. With both Bengaluru and ATK suffering shock defeats against lower-placed oppositions over the past weekend, the league table has opened up and how. Three teams still remain in the hunt for the final semis berth going into the last round of league games, making the league more competitive than ever.
Also, there is a bigger prize at stake now; the club that finishes on top at the end of the league stage gets a direct entry into the group stage of the AFC Champions League – a first for Indian clubs. Either Goa or ATK look set to grab a piece of history as the first-ever Hero ISL League Winners. Bengaluru and Mumbai City have it upon themselves to confirm the third and fourth spot respectively, while Chennaiyin have the cushion of the extra game and Odisha have to rely on various permutations and combinations to march into the semi-finals.
FC GOA (36 Points)
Remaining Game: 19 Feb – Jamshedpur FC vs FC Goa
Goa will have wrapped the regular season well and early as their trip to Jamshedpur on Wednesday could be a potential history in the making. The Gaurs need only one point (37 points) to confirm themselves as Hero ISL League Winners and gain entry into the AFC Champions League. However, their top spot could be in danger if they lose to Jamshedpur and ATK win their game against Bengaluru. Both teams will be tied on 36 points each, but the Kolkata-based outfit will edge ahead in lieu of a better head-to-head record.
ATK (33 Points)
Remaining Game: 22 Feb – Bengaluru FC vs ATK
To end top, ATK will need Jamshedpur FC to first beat FC Goa and then themselves defeat Bengaluru. In this case, both FC Goa and ATK will be tied on 36 points but the two-time Hero ISL champions have a better head-to-head tally this season. If Goa even pick up a point in Jamshedpur, ATK will finish second regardless of their result against Bengaluru.
BENGALURU FC (29 Points)
Remaining Game: 22 Feb – Bengaluru FC vs ATK
The defending champions can cement the third spot they currently occupy with a win against ATK, taking them to 32 points as Chennaiyin FC, with two games in hand can rise up to 31 points. If Mumbai City defeat Chennaiyin and Bengaluru fall to ATK, the Islanders will topple Sunil Chhetri & Co. to third spot despite having the same number of points – 29; as Jorge Costa’s men did the double on Bengaluru. Else, just one point is sufficient for Bengaluru in that regard to stay third. If they lose, Bengaluru could end with the same number of points with Chennaiyin (29 points) but a better head-to-head will see them remain safe on third.
MUMBAI CITY (26 Points)
Remaining Game: 21 Feb – Mumbai City vs Chennaiyin FC
It is pretty simple for Mumbai City – win against Chennaiyin and seal a top four spot. If Bengaluru lose the following day, Mumbai City would end up third as well. However, if they draw against Chennaiyin, the Islanders will need a favour from NorthEast United in the final league game of the season as well as from Kerala Blasters against Odisha FC. If Odisha win, their league double will ensure Mumbai City are eliminated. If not, and in case of a draw in Guwahati, both Chennaiyin and Mumbai City will be locked down on 27 points each. Superior goal difference in the league will come into play and in that case, Mumbai City will drop out.
CHENNAIYIN FC (25 Points)
Remaining Games: 21 Feb – Mumbai City vs Chennaiyin FC; 25 Feb – NorthEast United FC vs Chennaiyin FC
After their dramatic turnaround, Chennaiyin sit pretty with a couple of games in hand. However, Chennaiyin cannot afford to lose in Mumbai but a minimum of two points from two games combined with Odisha FC dropping points will do it for Owen Coyle’s men. If Chennaiyin win both their games (31 points) and Bengaluru drop points against ATK, the two-time Hero ISL champions could also finish third.
ODISHA FC (24 Points)
Remaining Game: 23 Feb – Odisha FC vs Kerala Blasters FC
Before Odisha take the field in the penultimate league game of the season, they would need Mumbai City and Chennaiyin to draw and then win against Blasters themselves. Both Mumbai City and Odisha then end up on 27 points each. Chennaiyin will then need to drop points at NorthEast United and with each of Mumbai City, Chennaiyin and Odisha tied on 27 points, the Bhubaneswar side will make the top four given their better head-to-head record with both sides.