The Indian Super League crossed its first quarter of the 2023/24 season at the end of Matchweek 6 as both players and fans prepare for a highly anticipated International break. The performances and results of the teams over these games have given us an idea of how the season is shaping up with a few potentially unexpected playoff contenders joining the race too.
Unbeaten FC Goa are leading the table along with Kerala Blasters with 13 points each with the former having a game in hand. Following them are the reigning ISL champions Mohun Bagan SG securing the full 12 points from the four games they have played. Mumbai City FC, Odisha FC and surprisingly Northeast United make up the top six playoff spots, separated by just 3 points between them.
Chennaiyin FC lead the chasing pack, closely followed by last season’s ISL finalists Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC. Last season’s league runners up and 2021 ISL Champions, Hyderabad FC, are finding it very difficult early on as they make up the bottom three along with Kolkata giants East Bengal and the promoted newcomers Punjab FC.
As we move into the second quarter of the season post the International break, here is a review of how the teams have performed and what we can expect from them as the season progresses.
FC Goa (Played:5, Points:13, Rank:1)
The Gaurs have started their season in some style as they comfortably saw off their opponents, with their new signings shining. Jhingan has led the defence very well while their star player Noah Sadaoui has been causing opponents a lot of problems in the first five games so far. Young fullback Jay Gupta has been the find of the season as he continued his brilliant performances from the Durand Cup with many fans and experts suggesting that he deserves a National team call-up soon. Overall, they look very solid as an unit, having conceded the least amount of goals till now and they should be challenging for the league this season.
Kerala Blasters (Played:6, Points:13, Rank:2)
Manjappada fans have every reason to be excited as their team have produced some of the most exciting matches of the season so far with last minute goals and high intensity, with Blasters taking the points on most occasions. The talismanic Luna has led from the front with 3 goals and 2 assists as they look to continue their good form and take advantage of the electric home atmosphere into their next games. The return of their head coach Ivan Vukomanovic after a lengthy ban will definitely be a huge boost to their confidence as they look like prime contenders to finish in the top four positions.
Mohun Bagan SG (Played:4, Points:12, Rank:3)
Arguably the best team on paper, Mariners have not let any expectations down as they have been dominant in every game they have played till now. Even though they have played less games due to their busy schedule, they are the only team maintaining a 100% record till now and have produced the best football amongst all the other teams.
New signing Sahal is having his best ISL season as he is leading the assists chart and being the primary creating force in the team. Evan after an injury to Anwar Ali and the season long absence of Ashique, Juan Ferrando’s men are the favorites to win everything in this year’s Indian football calendar and anything less than a league win for them would be a disappointment.
Mumbai City FC (Played:5, Points:11, Rank:4)
The reigning champions did not get the start they were looking for exactly even though they are still undefeated. The Islanders were many people’s clear favorites again especially after the quality of football they displayed last season. However, they met with a couple of frustrating draws as they are not playing as good they were expected to.
Due to a busy schedule, Des Buckingham is dealing with a few injuries to their crucial players like Noguera and El Khayati, and they are having a very difficult time in the AFC Champions League group stage as well. Star striker Pereyra Diaz has been in top form with 5 goals this season in the ISL itself and he needs to continue his rich vein of form as they will definitely look to challenge for the league this season as well.
Odisha FC (Played:6, Points:10, Rank:5)
Odisha FC were one of the teams to watch out for this season after going through a huge squad revamp and boosted by the leadership of Sergio Lobera. After having a dismal start in their league campaign as well as the AFC Cup group stage losses, Odisha have won their last two league games and are also winning games in Asia. Currently, they are one of the most in-form teams in the league and with the likes of Jahouh, Fall and Mauricio coming together and shining under Lobera, they are a team to watch out for and it will not be a surprise if they end up challenging for the title this year.
NorthEast United (Played:6, Points:8, Rank:6)
After having a couple of disastrous seasons in the ISL, NEUFC made many changes to their squad just like every other season and were expected to be the first team to get out of the playoffs race. However, Benali’s men are now definitely one of the favorite team of neutral fans. They have fought with intensity and got some important results in their first few games.
Their 2-1 comeback win against Jamshedpur was special and will prove to be a huge boost for the team. With the emergence of their talented young forward Parthib Gogoi, they will certainly cause problems to the bigger teams. If they can maintain their playoff spot by the end of the season against all odds, it will be a season to remember for all the fans.
Chennaiyin FC (Played:6, Points:6, Rank:7)
Owen Coyle’s team have been a mixed bag till now. After losing their captain and key player Anirudh Thapa, they were not expected to challenge for the playoff spots. After losing their first three games on the season comprehensively, they thrashed Punjab FC 5-1 and also got the better of Hyderabad FC only to get completely outclassed by FC Goa later on. Club legend Crivellaro has been key to their good moments and striker Conor Shields is having a good start to the season as well. Unfortunately, they have not been consistent along with having one of the leakiest defenses in the league and this is something they have to improve if they want to challenge for the playoff spots.
Bengaluru FC (Played:6, Points:5, Rank:8)
The Blues have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league so far after winning just one game out of their six, against East Bengal. Sunil Chhetri and company are not playing to the best of their abilities and Simon Grayson has his tasks cut out in order to take the Blues close to the playoff spots. There are many matches to go however and with the talent in their squad, they should be still expected to make it to the top six spots at the end of the season.
Jamshedpur FC (Played:6, Points:5, Rank:9)
The Men of Steel have shown anything but steel so far this season as they are the joint lowest scorers in the league so far with just 4 goals. With their star striker Chima Chukwu looking out of sorts to score goals, it is hard to see where they will come from. Scott Cooper’s men have to find a way to find the back of the net more often and the manager will hope to see some output from their promising youngsters and the experienced Sliskovic.
East Bengal FC (Played:5, Points:4, Rank:10)
The Red and Gold Bridage have not started the season as expected after a brilliant Durand Cup run where they reached the finals. East Bengal have one of the best strikers in the league in the form of Cleiton Silva, who has shown his class by scoring 3 goals this season but the rest have only scored 2 goals in total. East Bengal faithfuls will be hoping that Mahesh Naorem, who is having a brilliant time for both club and country, will turn up and win them some important games as the season progresses. With still a game in hand amongst the chasing pack for the top six, East Bengal should not lose hope.
Hyderabad FC (Played:6, Points:3, Rank:11)
After losing their manager, the entire core of their squad, and unfortunately not getting adequate replacements for them, Hyderabad are struggling as expected. The manager does not have a lot of quality resources to work with and as a result they haven’t registered a single win so far this season, scoring the least number of goals as well. Poor transfer strategy is to be blamed for their downfall and their chances to maintain their streak of reaching the playoffs this season look very bleak.
Punjab FC (Played:6, Points:3, Rank:12)
Newly promoted Punjab FC were obviously expected to have a very difficult season and that has turned out to be quite true as they have conceded the most goals so far this season i.e. 13 and also have not registered a single win. However, with no relegation to take place this season, they have a golden chance to provide their players the experience and exposure of playing in the ISL, which will help them to build a much better team next season.
Follow IFTWC for more updates on Indian Football.