The third season of the Indian Super League is almost in the last stages. Out of the possible 14 home-and-away games for each team, most have played at least 12 matches. Now 5 more league matches are left and 3 teams have already secured semifinal berths. The first team to secure the spot in this season’s play-off was Mumbai City FC, when they beat Chennaiyin FC at home on November 23. This was the first time that the Mumbai have entered the semifinal of the Indian Super League. On November 27, Delhi Dynamos FC also booked the play-off stage with a huge victory over bottom ranked FC Goa. Next day, it was the turn of 2014 champions Atletico de Kolkata, who drew their 13th match with Kerala Blasters FC. However, one point from that match was enough to carry them through to the semifinal for the third year in a row. Now just a lone spot is up for grabs before the 2016 ISL season enters the crucial play-offs on December 10.
The battle for the last semifinal place will be fought between Kerala Blasters FC and NorthEast United FC. By drawing their last game with ATK, Kerala gained a vital point. Kerala’s tally has reached 19 points from 13 matches and they face NorthEast United FC in their last league game at Kochi on December 4. NEUFC have 15 points from 12 matches and their play-off chances hinge on winning both games or drawing with Delhi and beating Kerala. Thus Kerala Blasters are better placed at this stage in comparison to the Highlanders. But NEUFC have their chances as well. Even if they draw their match against Delhi, they can beat Kerala Blasters and make it to the last four. However, if NEUFC lose to Delhi, it will be all over for them. As for Kerala, they need just a draw against NEUFC even if the Highlanders beat Delhi. There is another catch in the whole scenario. Highlanders draw against Delhi and win over Kerala will only take them level with the Blasters but since NEUFC have beaten the Blasters 1-0 in their last encounter, the Head-to-Head results between the two will see NEUFC through.
In just a few days, the league phase will conclude and everything will fall in place. The teams take a long 6-day break before the home-and-away play-offs. Like the previous two seasons, 2016 has also turned out to be a highly successful season with great games and some unexpected upsets. Last year’s champions Chennaiyin FC and Runners-up FC Goa couldn’t even reach the semifinal this year. Not only that, the two teams lie at the bottom of league table to an utter disappointment of their fans and the owners. With 22 points, Mumbai City FC are the table-toppers in 2016 with 6 wins from 13 matches. They have lost just 3 matches and drawn 4 en route to becoming the first team this season to qualify for the play-offs. Of the other two semifinalists, Delhi have made their second consecutive play-off appearance while Atletico de Kolkata have ensured their third entry into semifinals in three seasons. In their last games, Mumbai defeated Chennaiyin FC 2-0, Delhi trounced FC Goa 5-1 and ATK had a 1-1 draw with Kerala Blasters. The schedule has allowed Mumbai a long break of 10 days before they play their last match against Delhi Dynamos on December 3 at Mumbai. Delhi have two matches left but they will be unaffected by the outcome. They take on NorthEast on November 30 before going to Mumbai three days later. As for Atletico de Kolkata, their last home fixture pitts them against FC Pune on December 2.
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