The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 is nearing its business end. At the top of the table, five teams – Odisha FC, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, FC Goa, Mumbai City FC, and Kerala Blasters FC – are continuing their fervent battle for the League Shield. Meanwhile, Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United FC, East Bengal FC, Chennaiyin FC, Bengaluru FC, and Punjab FC are striving to secure the other playoff spot.

Matchweek 16 kicks off with FC Goa aiming to return to winning ways as they host NorthEast United FC, followed by the match between Jamshedpur FC and East Bengal FC.

On Friday, Chennaiyin FC and Mumbai City FC will lock horns in Chennai, before the action shifts to the Saturday's doubleheader. In the early fixture on Saturday, league leaders Odisha FC will welcome second-placed Mohun Bagan SG, followed by Bengaluru FC taking on the Hyderabad FC team.

Matchweek 16 concludes with Kerala Blasters FC hosting FC Goa.

As we brace for Matchweek 16, here are some key talking points.

FC Goa aim to reclaim top spot

The Gaurs witnessed their 12-match unbeaten run come to an end at the hands of Mohun Bagan Super Giant, and the team has now lost five points in their last two matches. FC Goa, who have consistently been the team to beat with their excellent display of football under Manolo Marquez, would aim to reclaim their top spot this week.

The Gaurs are set to feature twice this week, hosting NorthEast United FC in the opening fixture of Matchweek 16, followed by a match against Kerala Blasters FC. Marquez's side will be keen to return to winning ways. However, overcoming the challenges posed by the Highlanders and the Blasters won’t be a cakewalk, as both opponents present formidable challenges while pursuing their respective goals.

Securing six points and maintaining a good goal difference from these two games could propel FC Goa back to the top of the table at the end of Matchweek.

Can East Bengal FC break the jinx?

Sixth vs Eighth. Jamshedpur FC and East Bengal FC both aim to secure full points from this game. The Red and Gold Brigade secured a scrappy 1-0 win against Hyderabad FC, and despite the nature of the victory, it is the three points that mattered the most for them after the two previous defeats. This win has brought them strongly back into contention for the playoff race. Despite maintaining six clean sheets this season, they have only managed to secure three victories. Carles Cuadrat’s side needs more wins to secure a top-six finish this season, and they face their own challenge of breaking the record of not winning two consecutive games in the ISL in their history.

However, they face an uphill task upfront as they go up against Khalid Jamil’s side, which has been in red-hot form in the second half of the league. With two wins and two draws, the Men of Steel are unbeaten in the second half of the league, and they aim to continue this form against the Kolkata side.

Mumbai City FC look to do the double

In the reverse fixture in December, the Islanders claimed a resounding 3-0 victory over Chennaiyin FC, courtesy of second-half goals by Lallianzuala Chhangte, Vikram Partap Singh, and Gurkirat Singh. Having recovered from the defeat to Jamshedpur FC, Mumbai City FC not only secured six points from their next two matches but also showed improvement in their overall gameplay. The availability of key players returning from injury and suspension has also boosted their squad, and these wins have strongly put them back in contention for the League Shield.

Petr Kratky’s side now aim to mirror their performance from the earlier fixture against the Marina Machans and achieve a double over them. However, Owen Coyle’s side look to assert themselves, secure another home victory, and remain in the hunt for the playoffs race. Chennaiyin FC currently sit ninth in the league table with 15 points from 14 matches.

Two high-scoring teams face off in the League Shield run

Two in-form teams, also among the strongest contenders for the ISL League Shield, are set to face off in what is the most enticing fixture of Matchweek 16. Odisha FC and Mohun Bagan Super Giant have been the two top-scoring sides in the league this season, with both teams netting 28 goals so far, the Mariners having played one match less. The two teams played to a thrilling 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture in Kolkata. Therefore, when the two teams meet in Bhubaneswar, goals are guaranteed.

The Kalinga Warriors have gone from strength to strength this season and are unbeaten in their eleven matches in the ISL, while the Mariners have successfully revived their lost form under their new coach, coming on the back of three consecutive wins. Antonio Lopez Habas’ side recently ended the unbeaten run of FC Goa and would be keen to break Odisha FC’s streak as well when the table-toppers meet on Saturday.

It’s now or never for Kerala Blasters FC

The start of the second half of the league hasn't been favourable for the Blasters. They entered the mid-season break at the top of the table, but after three consecutive defeats, Ivan Vukomanovic’s side has slipped to the fifth position in the points table, now five points adrift of league leaders Odisha FC.

The momentum has not been with Kerala Blasters FC, and fresh injury updates have added to the challenges for the side. They must now secure a win in their next match to keep their chances open for the League Shield. The Blasters need to overcome internal challenges and be at their very best as they face the formidable FC Goa side, who recently suffered their first defeat in the league this season against Mohun Bagan Super Giant.