This inaugural Indian Super League is turning out to be quite gripping despite being completely new. Yesterday, I saw Mumbai City FC turn the world on its head by beating Atletico De Kolkata and keeping their hopes alive.
It wasn’t even easy for them. Atletico De Kolkata could be seen to be trying. In fact, they were properly frustrated by Mumbai City FC. It was like a younger sibling troubling the elder one incessantly because the parents have forbidden physically hitting each other.
Atletico De Kolkata were clearly the fitter side but couldn’t really use their fitness and strength to make that much of a difference. From some long forgotten hole of redemption, Mumbai City managed to dig out reserves of creativity and stamina to take the lead not once but twice!
The fact that they went ahead twice and were pegged back one shows that they were good value for their win. It wasn’t the usual smash and grab that smaller teams employ against bigger, more accomplished sides. It was a proper win.
Delhi Dynamos FC’s The Great Escape
Now, Delhi Dynamos FC are in the midst of doing the same. They are on the last stretch and need to beat Chennaiyin FC tomorrow. Whether you call it the great escape or pulling an FC Goa, you couldn’t have predicted this.
When Delhi Dynamos FC travel to Chennai to face Chennaiyin FC tomorrow, they’ll only need a win to confirm their presence in the next stage of the Indian Super League.
This is precisely why they absolutely need Alessandro Del Piero to be available for this match. You saw how Anelka played through injury for Mumbai City FC yesterday. Del Piero needs to do the same tomorrow.
They don’t have to worry about multiple permutations and combinations. All that they need are 3 points. They need to go out and play their hearts out to bursting. They don’t need to hold back anything. They just need to make things happen.
They are currently on 17 points by the virtue of 3 wins in the last 4 games. They’ve taken 10 points of the last 12 that were available to them. Just to put what Delhi Dynamos are on the verge of achieving here into perspective – they have a total of 4 wins in the whole league and the last 3 have come in the last 4 matches.
They’re peaking at the right time and they’ll be hoping that the curve continues. After all, they don’t want the bubble to burst before the finals are over now. As the new ISL advertisement says, they would want to be the 1st Champions.
Chennaiyin FC Have Nothing to Play For
Chennaiyin FC tried to experiment in their last game and who’s to blame them.
They’ve qualified and need to prepare for the semi-finals. They could continue the same strategy for their final league game.
This would play right into Delhi Dynamos’s hands. In fact, it’s highly likely that they’re hoping for this because it will make it much easier for them to qualify.
In contrast, other teams with hopes in the league would be regretting this fact.
One key point to note here, Chennaiyin FC may have Alessandro Nesta available for this match and they may look to give him some game time to help his match fitness. Would be interesting to see how he is deployed in the team but my money is on the wise choice of defence.
Apart from the fact that Chennaiyin FC will be playing at home and the 1st spot, there’s nothing for Chennaiyin players to play for. They would want to put on a show for their fans but it’s not like that it’ll be the last time they are playing there.
Similarly, they would want to retain the 1st spot in the league but it’s not like it’s a really huge deal. Even if they retain the 1st spot, they can’t predict whether they’ll be playing Atletico De Kolkata or any of the other 5 teams.
While playing the others will be relatively easy, meeting either Kolkata or Delhi is not going to be that easy. Furthermore, the two teams will provide different types of challenges. I don’t know which one Chennaiyin FC would prefer.
I would think that they’d rather go up against the out of form Atletico De Kolkata instead of the in-form Delhi Dynamos FC. This leads me back full circle. If they’d rather play Kolkata then wouldn’t it be easier to simply go 2nd?
The Format for the Knockout Stages
For those of you who don’t know, in the next phase of knockout semis, the team placed 1st plays against the team placed 4th while the 2nd and 3rd placed teams play against each other.
The format means that there are home and away games with aggregates counting in the end. This makes me think that the home and away goals come into the picture. What does this mean?
- Take a situation where Team A and Team B play against each other.
- The 1st match is held at Team A’s ground and ends up 2 – 1.
- The 2nd match is held at Team B’s ground and ends up 1 – 0.
- This means that the aggregate is 2 – 2. Who will go through?
- Team B will go through to the finals because they scored an away goal while Team A couldn’t. This is the format that UEFA Champions League follows once its group stages are over.
Understanding How Things Stand
Right after Chennaiyin FC take on Delhi Dynamos FC is the match between Kerala Blasters FC and FC Pune City (the preview for this one will come later tonight or tomorrow). In the following day, there are 2 more matches.
What happens in the first match will have a bearing on all the 3 matches that follow. If Delhi Dynamos FC win against Chennaiyin FC then they will confirm their qualification with 20 points. It will have the following impact.
- Atletico De Kolkata will be 4th and in danger of being toppled if they lose to FC Goa the next day.
- The rest of the trailing pack will need to win their respective games and hope that Atletico De Kolkata lose.
The situation gets much more complex if Delhi Dynamos FC actually end up drawing or losing this game. Consider.
- Delhi Dynamos will have 18 points and no more games to play.
- Kerala Blasters FC, FC Pune City, and Mumbai City FC will each have a chance to topple Delhi but their woeful GD wouldn’t really help them.
- Effectively, these 3 teams along with Northeast United FC will want Delhi Dynamos to lose.
- If Delhi lose then all other teams below them can make it into the qualifying round with a win.
It’s all a little bit exciting, I’m sure you can sense it. If you haven’t watched ISL matches till now then this would be a good time to start.