As we approach Matchweek 21, the second-to-last round of the Indian Super League (ISL) season, we can anticipate a plethora of questions being answered as the race for the Shield among the top four teams tightens, and the battle for the final playoff spot intensifies.

The action kicks off at the Marina Arena with Chennaiyin FC hosting Khalid Jamil's Jamshedpur FC on Thursday. Friday sees FC Goa taking on Hyderabad FC, followed by a double header on Saturday featuring Punjab FC against Mohun Bagan Super Giant, and NorthEast United FC facing off against Kerala Blasters FC. Sunday brings Bengaluru FC against East Bengal FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan. The spotlight shifts to the critical clash between Mumbai City FC and Sergio Lobera's Odisha FC on Monday. Finally, Tuesday concludes with another double header, featuring Jamshedpur FC against FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC against NorthEast United FC.

Let's delve into the key storylines to watch out for in Matchweek 21.

Race for the sixth position, who will take the lead?

Following their unexpected victory over the in-form Mohun Bagan Super Giant in Kolkata, Chennaiyin FC will be eager to position themselves as frontrunners in the race for the sixth qualifying spot. Their upcoming home match against Jamshedpur FC is crucial for both teams, with playoff aspirations hanging in the balance.

Currently, Jamshedpur FC holds a two-place advantage over the Marina Machans in the playoff race. A win for the Men of Steel would propel them to the sixth position, currently occupied by Bengaluru FC. The significance of this match cannot be overstated, as both teams are poised to leave everything on the field in what promises to be an enthralling contest, setting the stage for a thrilling start to Matchweek 21.

Can FC Goa keep League Shield hopes alive?

With just three games remaining in the season, FC Goa will be determined to maximise their points tally by securing victories in all of their remaining matches. Their quest for the Shield begins with a crucial encounter against Thangboi Singto's Hyderabad FC.

Currently placed fourth in the standings, FC Goa find themselves eight points behind league leaders Mumbai City FC, with a game in hand. Despite the gap, their hopes of clinching the Shield remain alive, contingent upon winning all their remaining games and favourable results from other matches. As they embark on this pivotal journey, their match against Hyderabad FC marks the beginning of a series of must-win games resembling finals, where every point is crucial in their pursuit of the ultimate prize.

Big game in the League Shield race

Matchweek 21 presents a highly anticipated showdown as the current league leaders, Mumbai City FC, prepare to take on Odisha FC, another formidable contender for the Shield. Mumbai City FC will host Sergio Lobera's Odisha FC at home in what promises to be a pivotal clash.

A victory for Odisha FC would narrow the gap with Mumbai City FC by one point in the Shield race, intensifying the competition at the top. Meanwhile, Mumbai City FC will be determined to extend their lead and maintain their position at the summit of the table. Securing a win would allow them to approach their final match against the Mohun Bagan SG with a comfortable two-point cushion, thus bolstering their chances of clinching the Shield.

This encounter is undeniably the most crucial matchup of the season thus far, carrying significant implications for both teams. It is sure to be a thrilling spectacle and a must-watch for football fans across the nation.