ISL 2018-19: Predictions for top four - Who all can make it?
The excitement of the Indian Super League is back. After a gap of 40 days, the glitzy football tournament will return this week, with Kerala Blasters hosting ATK at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on January 25.
This is the first time that the ISL is having a mid-season break. The league was stopped for a brief period in October and November as India played China and Jordan in international friendlies, before it went into a long break for the Asian Cup.
India crashed out in the group stage itself. The players are back in the country and received some much-deserved rest before resuming their club duties.
As the ISL is coming to its business end, the teams would try to finish within the top four to secure a berth in the semifinals. However, the fight is only between the top six teams as four teams, including defending champions Chennaiyin FC, have little or no chance to qualify.
Bengaluru and Mumbai City are in pole position but it needs to be seen how Jamshedpur FC and ATK fare in the second phase of the league. They are placed fifth and sixth respectively and a few positive results would turn the fortune in their favour.
Let us look at the teams who could finish within top four:
#4 Bengaluru FC
The runners-up from the previous edition, Bengaluru FC, have dominated the ISL this season too. With 27 points from 11 matches, Bengaluru remain the only team in the ISL not to have lost a single match. Moreover, Bengaluru have played a game less than most of their opponents, which is definitely an advantage for them going into the second phase of the league.
Bengaluru, who impressed in the previous edition, are desperate to win the trophy this time. So far, they have not put a foot wrong in the league. Winning against FC Goa and a hard-earned draw against Mumbai City FC have only boosted their confidence.
They received a major boost as Venezuelan striker Miku, who was sidelined for six matches due to injury, returned to join the side a few days ago. Though he posted a cryptic message on his Instagram account, hinting that he may return to join a Latin American side, the move is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Bengaluru will likely reap the benefits of his service until the league is over.
However, the two-time I-League champions have a task to cut out in their opening two matches. They would face Mumbai City in their first match after the break on January 27 and host NorthEast United three days later.
Both Mumbai and NorthEast are among the top four teams as of now and a favourable result would see Bengaluru securing their knockout berth. The next three matches will be against the bottom four side and considering Bengaluru’s performance, it would be nothing more than a cakewalk for them.