The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 campaign is headed towards mid-season, a phase where many points are up for grabs and teams can quickly change their fortunes with good results. 

Matchweek 9 that swiftly follows an action-packed matchweek 8, will see ten teams in action with FC Goa and Kerala Blasters FC getting a breather. 

Mohun Bagan Super Giant will kick off things against Odisha FC in Kolkata before Jamshedpur FC host Chennaiyin FC at the Furnace. Mumbai City FC will return to ISL action after a long gap as they travel to Bengaluru before East Bengal FC will look to make it two straight home wins in a row when they welcome Punjab FC. 

Matchweek 9 will conclude with NorthEast United FC entertaining Hyderabad FC in Guwahati. 

As we quickly dust ourselves heading into a brand new matchweek, here are the narratives to look forward to in Matchweek 9.

Psychological battle for Mohun Bagan Super Giant

The Mariners who sit top of the table in the ISL with the best-ever start to a season by any team should start as favourites against any team, especially at home. 

But football has a funny way of churning out storylines. Odisha FC who are the visitors to the Salt Lake stadium on Wednesday will enter the lion’s den in a confident mood having beaten Juan Ferrando’s men 5-2 in an AFC Cup group match exactly nine days ago at the same venue. 

Mohun Bagan Super Giant will have to put that heavy defeat against the Kalinga Warriors behind them as they face them again if they are to maintain their perfect start to the season. 

Sergio Lobera’s men would want to play on the same psychological advantage and fire themselves into contention for the League Shield with a win. An intriguing battle awaits. 

Owen Coyle returns to Jamshedpur

Owen Coyle will lead his Chennaiyin FC side to Jamshedpur to face his former team at the Furnace. Neither team have enjoyed a great start to the season but that will partly be forgotten as all the focus will be on the Scottish head coach who will return to the team he helped with the League Winners’ Shield in 2021-22. 

The distraction from their current form will come as a relief for both teams who are still searching for their best stride this season. 

For Coyle and the Jamshedpur FC fans, it will be an emotional reunion as the fans had to watch their incredible triumph two seasons ago away from the stands due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The fans will get a chance to say thank you to their former boss whose departure has coincided with the dwindling fortunes of the team. 

Jamshedpur FC fans will hope Coyle’s presence at the Furnace will provide a good omen for them to kickstart their season but the Scottish head coach will certainly have other ideas.

Islanders begin life after Buckingham

Mumbai City FC will play their first ISL match since the departure of head coach Des Buckingham and will hope to build on his good work over the last two seasons. Anthony Fernandes has been handed interim charge of the team and he will face a tricky trip to Bengaluru in his first ISL assignment. 

The Blues have struggled in the ISL so far claiming just one win in their first eight matches and will view the transition that their opponents find themselves in as an opportunity to reignite their campaign. Mumbai City FC can draw inspiration from their win at this venue in the second leg of the semi-final but the Blues have the edge in recent games having ended Mumbai City FC’s unbeaten record at this venue in the last league game between the two teams at the Sree Kanteerava stadium. 

Can East Bengal FC repeat their heroics?

East Bengal FC are in dreamland after their 5-0 win over NorthEast United FC in their last ISL match and host Punjab FC in their next encounter on Saturday. 

The Red and Gold brigade will hope for a repeat of the performance against the Highlanders when winless Punjab FC comes calling but consistency has been a problem for Carles Cuadrat’s men this season and that’s something they will look to address in their next match. They haven’t always thrived well with the favourites tag and it’s something they will have to cope with if they are to mount a challenge for the playoff spots. 

Punjab FC got close to picking up their first win against Bengaluru FC in their last game and will hope to bridge that gap when they head to Kolkata. 

Can Hyderabad FC compound Highlanders’ woes?

NorthEast United FC will be licking their wounds after a heavy defeat in Kolkata as it put a dampener on their positive season so far. Hyderabad FC who are without a win so far this season will look to exploit their opponents’ shaken confidence and pick up their first win of the campaign. 

Thangboi Singto’s side have delivered some good performances this season but haven’t had enough to convert it into a positive result. The Highlanders on the other hand have been strong at home this season and will hope to bounce back.