ISL 2023-24: What to look forward to in Matchweek 15
The upcoming Matchweek will consist of eight fixtures with the likes of Kerala Blasters FC, Punjab FC, Mumbai City FC, Mohun Bagan SG, and East Bengal FC playing twice.
The Indian Super League (ISL) gears up for a pivotal Matchweek 15, commencing just a day after the conclusion of Matchweek 14. This round features a total of eight fixtures, with Kerala Blasters FC, Punjab FC, Mumbai City FC, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, and East Bengal FC playing double fixtures, the former three making their return after missing out the previous Matchweek.
1️⃣5️⃣ goals in Matchweek 14 😲, what does Matchweek 15 have in store for us? 🤔#ISL #ISL10 #LetsFootball #ISLonJioCinema #ISLonSports18 | @JioCinema @Sports18 @eastbengal_fc @mohunbagansg pic.twitter.com/7VUeTV09Ry— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) February 11, 2024
As the fixtures come thick and fast, and the playoff race intensifies, teams are poised to capitalise on this busy period, striving to enhance their positions in the league standings. The upcoming matches promise heightened competition as clubs aim to secure crucial points in their quest for playoff berths.
With that, here are the key aspects to keep an eye on in the forthcoming Matchweek.
Depleted Kerala Blasters FC need to find quick answers
Kerala Blasters FC, once leading the league standings heading into Matchweek 13, faced a setback with a recent loss to Odisha FC, marking their third defeat of the season. They are currently placed third on the league table. The team, already dealing with the absence of Luna since December, have had to deal with another blow with Kwame Peprah's season-ending injury, a player who was hitting peak form. Vukomanovic, the coach, acknowledged the challenges post the Odisha FC defeat.
"Every game for us, it's kind of a different story. Different picture. We cannot count that we can go and play with a full squad, but that’s the way it is. Many blow-offs with the injured players and the youngsters who have to step up," he remarked.
In these challenging times, Kerala Blasters FC must navigate the crucial phase of the season without room for errors. Their upcoming fixtures include a home game against Punjab FC and an away clash against Chennaiyin FC.
However, the return of Jeakson Singh from injury, coupled with the arrival of new signings Fedor Cernych and Justine Emmanuel, could provide a much-needed boost as they strive to regain their momentum.
Punjab FC’s push for the playoff spot
Punjab FC have found themselves in the 11th position on the league table for the majority of the season. However, recent outcomes have injected a sense of belief that a playoff berth is still within reach. Despite registering only two victories in 13 games so far, both of these wins have come in their last three matches, notably against challenging opponents such as Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC, both strong contenders for the playoffs.
Remarkably, Punjab FC's successes have been confined to their home ground this season. As they approach two challenging fixtures in Matchweek 15 - an away clash against the Blasters in Kochi followed by a home game against Jamshedpur FC - recent form and reinforced squad depth from the January transfer window offer reasons for optimism.
Despite their current standing, just five points away from a playoff spot, Punjab FC are in a position where a couple of positive results could propel them into contention for the coveted top-six spot. The upcoming matches present an opportunity for them to further improve their league standing and validate their playoff aspirations.
Can FC Goa do the double over Mohun Bagan SG?
In December, FC Goa delivered a resounding victory against Mohun Bagan SG in Kolkata, showcasing their credentials as strong contenders for the League Shield. In that match, Manolo Marquez's team not only secured a win but dominated their opponents on their home turf, clinching a decisive 4-1 victory.
The upcoming reverse fixture adds intrigue for fans of both clubs and spectators alike, as the two sides face off in Goa. FC Goa remains the sole unbeaten team in the league and is currently in a formidable position, holding the second spot in the standings just behind Odisha FC.
However, they will approach the match with caution against a resurgent Mohun Bagan SG, led by head coach Antonio Lopez Habas. The Mariners, under the guidance of the Spanish coach, have yet to face defeat in the two games since his arrival and have displayed sharpness in attack, scoring four goals in two fixtures.
While FC Goa boast the record for conceding the fewest goals in the league, they now face one of the most potent attacks in the competition, with Mohun Bagan SG currently holding the second-highest goal tally. These contrasting strengths set the stage for an exciting and closely contested battle between the two sides.
Two young coaches square off in battle of wits
The upcoming clash between Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC in Matchweek 15 promises an intriguing battle of wits between two young and tactically astute head coaches. In their previous encounter, Mumbai City FC emerged victorious with a convincing 4-0 win against Bengaluru FC.
Since that result in December, there have been significant changes in the coaching staff, with Petr Kratky and Gerard Zaragoza taking charge of Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC, respectively. While Kratky is a relatively new presence in the league, Zaragoza has returned to Bengaluru FC, having been part of the coaching staff during the 2018-19 season.
Despite their different journeys, both coaches share a common inclination towards playing attacking football and dominating the game. The upcoming fixture at the Mumbai Football Arena is anticipated to be a high-scoring affair as these two head coaches engage in their first face-off, each aiming to outwit the other tactically.