ISL 2023-24: Playoffs race gets close as three points separate top four after Matchweek 15

February 19, 2024
The Matchweek 15 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 rounded off on Sunday with Odisha FC continuing to lead the points

Mumbai, Feb 19 (IANS) The Matchweek 15 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 rounded off on Sunday with Odisha FC continuing to lead the points table despite not featuring in the last eight matches. It was a productive week as 20 goals were scored across eight matches in a series of gripping encounters that saw Jamshedpur FC (4-0 vs Punjab FC) and Mohun Bagan Super Giant (4-2 vs NorthEast United FC) recording big victories.

East Bengal FC, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, Chennaiyin FC, and Mumbai City FC got past Hyderabad FC, FC Goa, Kerala Blasters FC, and East Bengal FC respectively with a wafer-thin margin of 1-0.

Interestingly, the race for the playoff spots is heating up as the season approaches its final stages and teams are trying their best to secure three full points from their matches. That seems the reason as there were no draws this past week as each match saw some visible movement in the rankings of the concerned teams.

A total of 189 shots were taken across eight games, boiling down to 23.62 of them per match. 64 shots were hit on target, showing 33.86% accuracy on the part of the players. The teams were defensively proactive, with the Matchweek gone by seeing 170 interceptions being made – 21.25 of them coming in every game on average.

With Matchweek 15 done and dusted, here’s what is in store for the teams set to play in the next round of games, keeping in backdrop the results witnessed in the last seven days.

FC Goa looks to thwart competition

Until some time ago, FC Goa were comfortably placed at the top, but their unbeaten streak was broken by the Mariners this week and the Manolo Marquez-coached side is embroiled in an intense tussle currently. The Gaurs are tied on points with Mumbai City FC (28) and have been surpassed by Odisha FC (31) and Mohun Bagan Super Giant (29) in the standings. They face the misfiring Kerala Blasters FC and NorthEast United FC in Matchweek 16. With 19 goals, FC Goa have a shot conversion rate of 11.9%, which is only the ninth-best in the league.

It is their defensive solidity, of keeping seven clean sheets and conceding the same count of goals that have taken them so far in the competition. The absence of Sandesh Jhingan is thus bound to hit their prospects, especially when they face the Highlanders, whose latest acquisition Tomi Juric has hit the ground running with three goals in as many games already. Whether Juric turns up for the challenge again on Wednesday will have a massive impact on the Gaurs breaking out of the crowded space that is beginning to unfold in the top half of the table.

Jamshedpur FC to strengthen their surge

Jamshedpur FC has won and drawn twice each since the league resumed late last month. 47.05% of their points (8) this season have been won under the watch of Khalid Jamil, despite the tactician being at the helm of only 25% (4) of their total matches so far (16). In all 42.85% of their goals (9) have been scored since Jamil took over the reins, and by all means, the Red Miners are just getting started in their pursuit of possibly doing the unthinkable in this campaign.

They have netted an overwhelming 62% of their goals (13) in the second half, which will be put to the test against East Bengal FC who have given away 50% of their strikes in the final 45 minutes of games. Jamshedpur FC has not lost in the ISL since the departure of Scott Cooper, whereas the Red & Gold Brigade have only won once in their previous seven encounters. All in all, we are in for a cracker of a contest.

Another top-of-the-table tussle awaits

Odisha FC and Mohun Bagan Super Giant promise fireworks when they clash in Bhubaneswar on the coming Saturday. The current league leaders have scored the joint-most goals (28) in the ISL this season. The Juggernauts are unbeaten in the competition since October and the Mariners haven’t faced defeat here since Antonio Lopez Habas replaced Juan Ferrando either.

With a 22% shot conversion and 51.2% shot accuracy, the Sergio Lobera-coached side finds their biggest strength in its striking department spearheaded by Roy Krishna and Diego Mauricio.

They have the best record at home so far, earning 20 points from eight games, whereas the Mariners have the most formidable away record, having garnered 15 points from six games on the road.

The Mariners have won the most points from losing situations (11) in the league thus far, and the Juggernauts are not too far behind (8) in this respect either. Roy Krishna leads the charts with the most goal contributions (12) until now. There is little to separate the two sides in all concerned metrics, which shows that they will fight tooth and nail to not even cede an inch in the contest.

Southern rivals sort out their situations

After winning 26 points from their first 12 games, Kerala Blasters FC have lost thrice consecutively since the league resumed, with a host of injury issues hurting their cause. Last season, the team had secured 25 points from their opening 12 encounters but could win only six in the last eight matches, leading to them falling out of the race for the League Winners Shield. They will want to arrest this collapse when they meet FC Goa on February 25.

Contrastingly, Bengaluru FC has arguably not had the kind of resurgence they would have expected with the arrival of a new head coach and some statement signings in January. They face Hyderabad FC on Saturday, with the two teams having scored the least goals in the league.

The Blues have found the back of the net 15 times this season, scoring five times in their last six matches, whereas Hyderabad FC has netted on only five occasions in the ISL.

However, form is favouring the duo of Chennaiyin FC and Mumbai City FC, with both sides having secured victories in their respective last matches. Their clash on February 23 carries significance for both teams, with the Islanders taking a shot at the top spot with a possible win, whereas the Marina Machans continue to challenge Jamshedpur FC for a place in the playoffs.


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