Indian Super League playoffs scenarios: Which of the top six teams can qualify and how
With 79 matches played in the Indian Super League (ISL), the four playoff qualifiers are yet to be identified. Which of the top six teams are favoured to make it, and what do they need to do to get there?
Bengaluru FC (31 from 16)
Remaining: Goa (h) - Feb 21, Jamshedpur (a) - Feb 27
Jamshedpur's defeat to Pune on Saturday confirmed Bengaluru's place in the last four. While they'd still want to finish top, they can afford to experiment and rest a few regulars in their remaining fixtures. Delhi Dynamos have been irresistible since registering their first win of the season against Chennaiyin, while Goa and Jamshedpur are fighting for playoff spots. After losing to Delhi 3-2, they now need to win their next two games to guarantee top spot.
FC Goa (28 from 15)
Remaining: Kerala (h) - Feb 18, Bengaluru (a) - Feb 21, Chennaiyin (h) - Feb 28
With two home games out of their three remaining fixtures, Goa not only have the chance to book their place in the playoffs in style, but could also end up topping the regular season if they beat Bengaluru on February 21. Goa returned to their fluent best in the 3-0 dismantling of ATK in their last game, and need Coro and Edu Bedia to maintain that form to finish strongly.
NorthEast United (27 from 16)
Remaining: Pune City (h) - Feb 20, Kerala (a) - Mar 1
NorthEast have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time in their history, and they have their superb away form to thank for that. No team has picked up as many as their five wins on the road, and a win against Pune at home in their next match will guarantee them a place in top four. With Bartholomew Ogbeche and Federico Gallego leading the attacking line, six points from the last two games is a distinct possibility.
Mumbai City (27 from 16)
Remaining: ATK (a) - Feb 22, Pune City (a) - Mar 2
A 2-0 defeat to NorthEast United at home put Mumbai's playoff hopes in a little bit of peril, but Jamshedpur's loss to Pune means they will still be guaranteed a place in top four with just one win. Since bringing Bengaluru's unbeaten streak to a halt with a 1-0 win in January, they have lost three games on the trot, and importantly two of them have come against teams bidding to displace them from the top four. They haven't scored in any of these matches, and that could be fatal unless they shore up their defence in their two remaining games, both away against ATK and Pune, both desperate to end the season with as many wins as possible, and both still in with a mathematical chance of making the playoffs.
Jamshedpur (23 from 16)
Remaining: Chennaiyin (a) - Feb 23, Bengaluru (h) - Feb 27
Jamshedpur's playoff hopes suffered a big blow with a 4-1 loss at home against Pune. The trip to Chennai next up doesn't make it any easier. But if they win there, and since Bengaluru have already qualified and may rest a few of their regulars in the last game, Jamshedpur may still have a chance. But even winning both those games may not be enough, since Goa, NorthEast and Mumbai all just one win away from qualification.
ATK (21 points from 16 games)
Remaining matches: Mumbai City (h) - Feb 22, Delhi Dynamos (h) - Mar 3
For the two-time champions to have any hopes of qualifying, they need to win each of their remaining two games, and hope that Mumbai and NorthEast don't pick up a single point and hope that Jamshedpur do not overtake them. Two home matches to finish with should add an extra motivation, and the addition of Edu Garcia to the midfield could make them a bigger threat going forward.