Permutations and combinations of the four-horse race for the remaining two play-off spots

With the league stages of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 drawing to a close, the top four teams who will be vying for the title have slowly started coming to the fore. Two spots have already been spoken for by Bengaluru FC and FC Goa, but there's an intense ongoing four-horse race for the remaining two play-off slots.

Mumbai City FC, NorthEast United FC, Jamshedpur FC and ATK are still in with a chance to break into the top four and the results of the remaining matches will determine who goes through and who is left heartbroken. Here's a detailed breakdown of all the possible qualification scenarios for each of the four teams.

NorthEast United FC

Matches left:

Kerala Blasters FC vs NorthEast United FC, March 1

Currently on 28 points from 17 matches, the Highlanders are positioned very favourably in the top four race. While a win against Kerala will see them across the finish line for sure, a draw or a loss might make things a little complicated for the Highlanders.

Possible results:

Win against Kerala

In case NorthEast win the match against Kerala, the Highlanders will qualify for the play-offs irrespective of the results of other matches.

Draw against Kerala

If the Highlanders settle for a draw against Kerala, they will reach 29 points. In that scenario, Eelco Schattorie's men will need to hope at least one, or both, of Mumbai City FC and Jamshedpur FC finish below 29 points. Since the maximum points Jamshedpur can reach is 29, NorthEast will go through if the Miners lose a single point in their next two matches irrespective of what Mumbai do in their fixtures.

Loss against Kerala

The Highlanders will finish at 28 points if they face defeat in the last match against Kerala and will have to again depend on one of Jamshedpur or Mumbai to finish below 28 points. Since Jamshedpur can either finish on 23, 24, 25, 27 or 29 points, NorthEast’s best chance is for the Miners to drop points. In case Jamshedpur finish on 29 and both Mumbai and NorthEast end up on 28, the Highlanders will go through as the fourth-placed team because of the superior goal difference in their head to heads against Mumbai this season (lost 1-0 in Guwahati but won 2-0 in Mumbai).

Mumbai City FC

Matches left:

ATK vs Mumbai City FC, February 22

FC Pune City vs Mumbai City FC, March 2

Fourth in the current table with 27 points from 16 matches, qualification is still very much in Mumbai’s own hands. Jorge Costa’s side only needs three more points to ensure they are in the semis. However, they will still have a chance if they finish below the current cut-off of 30 points.

Possible results:

Win both of their remaining fixtures

If Mumbai win both of their remaining matches, they will reach 33 points and qualify.

Win one and draw one of their remaining matches

In this scenario, Mumbai will finish with 31 points and will be still guaranteed qualification.

Win one and lose one of their remaining fixtures

Even a single win will be enough to guarantee the Islanders qualification, irrespective of the results elsewhere. Mumbai will finish with 30 points.

Draw both of their remaining fixtures

In this case, Mumbai will finish with 29 points and will have to hope either NorthEast or Jamshedpur, or both, finish below 29 points. In case NorthEast draw against Kerala and Jamshedpur win both their remaining two fixtures, all three will finish on 29 points and Mumbai will miss out because of a worse head to head record against both teams this season.

Draw one and lose one of their remaining fixtures

A single point from the next two matches will mean the Islanders end the league stages with 28 points. In that scenario, they will need to hope that Jamshedpur don't win both of their remaining fixtures. As long as Jamshedpur don't pick up all six points, Mumbai will go through along with Bengaluru, Goa and NorthEast.

NorthEast are already on 28 points and have a better head to head (in terms of goals scored) against Mumbai. So, even if the Highlanders lose against Kerala and Mumbai finish on 28, NorthEast will have the upper hand because of the head to head record, as mentioned earlier.

Lose both of their remaining fixtures

If Mumbai lose both of their remaining fixtures, they will finish with 27 points on the board and it will also bring ATK into the equation. This scenario automatically entails Mumbai will lose their match against ATK, which will hand the Kolkata-based team a better head to head against Mumbai. In this scenario, Mumbai will need to hope that ATK doesn't win their other match against Delhi Dynamos FC while also counting on Jamshedpur to pick up less than four points from their two matches. In case it comes down to head to head against either of these two teams, Mumbai will lose out.

Jamshedpur FC

Matches left:

Chennaiyin FC vs Jamshedpur FC, February 23

Jamshedpur FC vs Bengaluru FC, February 27

Currently on 23 points from 16 matches, Jamshedpur need at least four points to even stay in the race. So, winning both or winning one and drawing one are the only two viable options for Jamshedpur to be on the running for the play-offs.

Possible results:

Win both their remaining fixtures

In case Jamshedpur win both their remaining matches, they will finish on 29 points. Provided it comes to fruition, Cesar Ferrando's men will hope at least one of NorthEast or Mumbai finish below 29 points. In the event of both Mumbai and Jamshedpur finishing with 29 points along with Jamshedpur, the Miners and the Highlanders will go through and Mumbai will lose out.

On the other hand, if Mumbai reach 30 points or more while Jamshedpur and NorthEast find themselves tied on 29 points, the math becomes more complicated. Since NorthEast and Jamshedpur have a neutral head to head against each other this season (both fixtures were draws), it will come down to overall goal difference. Both teams have a +4 GD currently but since the situation requires Jamshedpur to win both their matches and NorthEast to draw theirs, it's given that if all the pre-requisites hold true, Jamshedpur will end with a better GD than the Highlanders, thereby edging them out as the fourth team.

Win one and draw one of their remaining fixtures

If Jamshedpur pick up four points from the two fixtures, their points count at the end of the league stages will be 27. In that scenario, they will need to hope that Mumbai lose both their matches (against ATK and Pune) and ATK drop points against Delhi Dynamos FC in their final match of the season.

However, if ATK win against both Mumbai and Delhi, it will be a direct contest between Jamshedpur and ATK for the final spot. Mumbai will lose out despite being on 27 points because of a worse head to head against both teams. If such a situation comes along, ATK will grab the final spot because of their superior head to head against the Miners (1 win, one draw).

ATK

Matches left:

ATK vs Mumbai City FC, February 22

Delhi Dynamos FC vs ATK, March 3

Currently on 21 points from 16 matches, ATK can reach a maximum of 27 points and will need to reach the same tally to have any chance of qualifying.

Possible results:

Win both of their remaining fixtures

Even if ATK win their last two fixtures, they will have to rely heavily on other results going their way. A victory over Mumbai on February 22 is the bare necessity and even after that, Steve Coppell's men will have to hope that Mumbai lose their final match against Pune and Jamshedpur don't pick up more than four points from their remaining fixtures.

If Jamshedpur or Mumbai, or both, end up with 27 points along with ATK, the Kolkata-based side will clinch the fourth spot by virtue of better head to head records against the other two.

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