ISL 2023-24: The Intense Battle for the Top 6 Playoff Spots

ISL Shield and Trophy
ISL Shield and Trophy (Source: X)

The Indian Super League 2023-24 season is approaching its business end, and the fight for the top six becomes tougher. The league table presents a complex scenario, with permutations and combinations affecting the top six teams, with 6-7 games remaining for each side. The competition is intense.

To start with, East Bengal FC, despite their historical struggle in the tournament, clinched the Kalinga Super Cup after a 12-year wait for a senior trophy at the national level. Additionally, they achieved the feat of winning two derbies in a single season, something East Bengal fans have been missing for years now. Currently occupying the eighth spot in the ISL league table, Carles Cuadrat and his team are eyeing a sixth-place finish to secure a playoff berth.

East Bengal’s arch-rivals, Mohun Bagan, find themselves in the second spot with 29 points from 14 games. They trail Odisha FC at the top by just two points, with one game in hand. Mumbai City and FC Goa closely follow with 28 points each, securing the third and fourth spots, respectively. Kerala Blasters are fifth, with two points less, while Jamshedpur FC currently sit at the sixth spot with 17 points from 16 games.

The battle for sixth place becomes even more challenging as teams from six to 11 positions are separated by just three points. Punjab FC are positioned at the second-last spot with 14 points from 15 games.

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Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal
Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal (Source: X/MBSG)

East Bengal’s recent, narrow 1-0 victory against bottom-placed Hyderabad FC, following two consecutive defeats post their Super Cup triumph, has set the stage for a crucial encounter against Jamshedpur FC on February 22. A win in this match would propel the Red and Golds above The Steelers in the league standings, with a game in hand.

Following this, four days later, East Bengal faces Chennaiyin, a team now in the ninth spot with the same points. This encounter is significant for both sides in their quest to move closer to the coveted sixth spot.

North East United, after suffering a 2-4 loss to Mohun Bagan, slipped to the seventh spot from sixth. Their upcoming away game against third-placed FC Goa on February 21, poses a challenging task, as the Gaurs, playing at home, aim to secure crucial points at a decisive stage of the league. This is a crunch match. A win for FC Goa will mean more chances for the others.

Mumbai City FC vs Bengaluru FC
Mumbai City FC vs Bengaluru FC (Source: X/Bengaluru FC)

On February 24, Bengaluru FC, positioned at the 10th spot, is set to face Hyderabad FC, who are still searching for their first win this season. A victory for Bengaluru would take their points tally to 18 from 17 games, presenting them with an opportunity to contend for the sixth spot for the moment.

Three days later, Hyderabad FC faces Punjab FC in the bottom-of-the-table clash. With Hyderabad having nothing to lose, they will be in a vulnerable mindset if they don’t manage something from the Bengaluru game. In that case, Punjab FC will have to fight hard to get three points which will take them to 17 points, again, close to the sixth spot.

On February 25, the Manjappadas and the Gaurs face-off, and any result in this match will not throw them out of the qualification zone.

Odisha FC vs FC Goa
Odisha FC vs FC Goa (Source: X/FC Goa)

Mumbai City, currently in the fourth spot with 28 points from 14 games, is scheduled to face Chennaiyin on February 26. Again, this is a fixture which becomes crucial for teams outside the qualification zone, who will be hoping for a favourable outcome for the Amchi Mumbai brigade.

Until the end of this month and the first week of March, the top two spot holders, Odisha and Bagan, appear safe, but any slip-in points might pose problems in the concluding phase. There will be a lot of ups and downs from the current scenario in the league table with most of the teams having 6-7 games in hand. Every point won or lost will have serious implications in the standings, with margins being so tight.

A special mention for the Kolkata clubs. With Mohun Bagan being one of the contenders of the tournament and East Bengal hoping to make their maiden playoffs, another Kolkata giant is knocking on the doors of the Indian Super League. The Black Panthers, Mohammedan Sporting Club are currently five points clear of second-placed Gokulam Kerala in the I-League. With almost 8-9 matches remaining for the teams and promotion happening for the first time this season, a great opportunity lies ahead for Mohammedan to step forward in the highest level of Indian football for the coming season.

Also Read: RevSportz Exclusive II Fans were crying, that made me cry too: Carles Cuadrat

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