As we head towards the business end of the ISL season, only 2 points separate the fourth placed team from the one at the bottom. With the competition tougher than ever, we take a look at the performances of all the 8 teams so far, and predict where they are likely to finish.
Positives – The team is at the top of the table and at the moment, they are looking like the most well-rounded team in the league. There were some questions raised about the appointment of Gianluca Zambrotta, considering his limited experience in management, however, the Italian has proved his worth so far. The former Juventus star has taken Roberto Carlos’ defensively solid team, and he has added a lot of flair to it.
They are currently the top-scorers in the league with 16 goals in 9 games—nearly double of what their nearest competitors have managed. Apart from the blip in Kolkata, they have convincingly performed against every team so far. Marcelo, arguably the player of the season so far, has been in stunning form with 5 goals and 4 assists in 9 outings, while Florent Malouda and Richard Gadze have supported him well in attack. Add to their attacking prowess, Delhi
Negatives – From their remaining 5 games in the league stages, 3 of those matches are away from home, and they have already dropped points against Kerala and Kolkata on the roads. Add to that, Delhi’s squad depth is not too impressive. Zambrotta will have to hope that the trio of Malouda, Marcelo, and
Prediction – Group stage winner
Mumbai City FC
Positives – Defensively they have been one of the best teams in the league and a big chunk of the credits for that goes to their Romanian defender Lucian Goian. The center back tops the chart for best tacklers in the league and thanks largely to his leadership at the back, Mumbai
Negatives – They might be placed at the second spot on the points table right now, but they are likely to drop down very fast as every other team
The Mumbai-based side
Prediction - 4th
Atletico de Kolkata
Positives – Jose Francisco Molina’s side have been good away from home apart from that recent loss in Pune—their only defeat on the road so far. The rise of the extremely talented Bidyananda Singh has been a big plus for them. The youngster has impressed every time he has been on the pitch and could possibly feature regularly in the starting lineup.
Midfielder Javi Lara’s performance has been crucial this season so far them. The Spaniard’s absence from the starting lineup was hugely felt in their 2-1 defeat at Pune. He has been the source of creativity for the Sourav Ganguly-owned side, and Molina will hope that he retains his fitness as we head towards the business end of the season.
They are currently four points behind the league leaders Delhi but with a game in hand. Also the fact that, they have a couple of easy fixtures lined up—at home against Kerala and Pune—towards the end of the group stages holds them in good stead.
Negatives – The inaugural champions have not been playing at the Salt Lake Stadium this season due to the upcoming U-17 World Cup in India and that seemed to have affected their home form. Kolkata
Under Antonio Habas, Kolkata
Iain Hume’s form has been another concern for them. The Canadian has blown hot and cold so far. He has not been at his lethal best like he was in the previous two seasons. Add to that, Postiga is also yet to hit the ground running. Kolkata
Prediction - 2nd
FC Pune City
Positives – There have been some fine individual performances for Pune this season and Edel Bete tops the chart. The goalkeeper, who has won two ISLs so far, has once again been brilliant between the sticks for Pune and is leading the most saves made stat table. Mohamed Sissoko has settled down well in his debut season and has protected the back four with aplomb. Jonatan Lucca has been the heartbeat in the midfield with surging runs into the box and winning balls in the middle of the park. Similarly, both the fullbacks Rahul Bheke and Narayan Das have been in good form, although, they did take a bit of time to adjust to the new tactics under Antonio Habas. Their overall form is on the rise at the moment with two impressive back-to-back victories, and like most of the teams so far this season, they have been brilliant on the road.
Negatives – They did replace Eidur Gudjohnsen, who had to pull out of the tournament due to an injury, with Sissoko as their marquee player, but they could not replace a goalscorer. The likes of Anibal Rodriguez and Dramane Traore have failed to find the back of the net with any consistency, and they have had to depend on the midfielders to score the goals. There is also a lack of creativity in the center of the park with Lucca and Tato being the only players who seem to have the ability to unlock defenses with their passing. They will hope that the return of Eugeneson Lyngdoh can address that problem.
One of the biggest worries for Pune so far this season has been their dismal home form. They have won just one, which arrived in their last game against Kolkata, of the six matches they have played at the Balewadi Stadium. Thankfully, they have just one more home game left this season in the group stages.
Prediction - 3rd
Kerala Blasters FC
Positives – Kerala
Moreover, the finishing of Kervens Belfort and Mohamed Rafi has left a lot to be desired. Kerala
Prediction - 6th
NorthEast United FC
Positives – Emiliano Alfaro has been a revelation for his side this season. The forward is currently the top goal scorer in the league alongside Marcelo of Delhi, and he has been leading the forward line with style. Nico Velez’s return from injury is also a big positive for the side, although he did look a bit rusty in the 2-1 defeat against Goa.
The style of football Nelo Vingada has implemented has appealed to the purist. There is a lot of pace
Negatives - At the start of the season, NorthEast were playing the most eye-pleasing football in the league and while that might still be the case, results have not gone their way recently. They are currently on a 4-match losing streak and all the confidence and swagger of the initial stage has been sapped out of the team.
They have scored just 4 goals in their last 7 games and one of the reasons for that is the reduced influence of their star midfielder Katsumi Yusa. Other teams are marking the Mohun Bagan midfielder out of the game, and he has come under some harsh treatment on the field. Didier Zokora has also seen a dip in his form and NorthEast are losing most of the battles in the midfield.
The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati used to be a fortress for the side, but they have now lost three matches in a row at home. They will need to significantly improve on that if they are to qualify for the knockouts.
Prediction - 7th
Positives – There have not been a lot of positives for the defending champions this season, with the exception of Raphael Augusto . The midfielder has been at the heart of everything good for the Marina Machans. The recent form of their striker Jeje Lalpekhlua also looks promising, and Marco Materazzi will hope that he can lead them to better results in upcoming games.
Negatives – The Chennaiyin
Replacing Elano and
Prediction - 5th
Positives – Rafael Coelho and
Negatives – Nearly everything has gone wrong for the last year’s finalists. Injuries and suspension
The Fatorda stadium no longer looks like the fortress it was, and Goa
Prediction - 8th
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