Which teams will end up in the top four ?

The league stage of the Indian Super League 2021-22 season ends on 7 March and the race for the playoff spots is intensifying. Seven of the eleven teams in the ISL still remain in the hunt, and with some season-defining fixtures to come, we delve into the permutations for each team.

Here’s what each team needs:

ISL home | Fixtures | Scores | Table | Stats

Current position: 1

Played: 17 | Points: 32

Remaining fixtures: Kerala Blasters (February 23), Jamshedpur FC (March 1), Mumbai City (March 5).

Hyderabad may be in pole position right now, but they will have to face arguably three of the toughest sides in the division.

Such is the unpredictable nature of the league that Hyderabad could quite conceivably lose all their remaining games and drop out of playoff contention. All Hyderabad need to do to guarantee qualification is beat Mumbai City in their final game. Even a draw against Mumbai will be enough if Manolo Marquez’ side can manage four points against the Blasters and Jamshedpur. The simplest equation is two wins from their final three, which would assure qualification no matter the teams involved.

Current position: 2

Played: 16 | Points: 31

Remaining fixture: NorthEast United (February 25), Hyderabad FC (March 1), Odisha FC (March 4), ATK Mohun Bagan (March 7).

Two wins and a draw will guarantee qualification for Jamshedpur FC, however they face two tricky fixtures against title rivals Hyderabad and ATKMB. Jamshedpur ought to have too much firepower for NEUFC, just like they did for Chennaiyin – who they beat 4-1 on Sunday. It makes a win against Odisha all that more critical.

Current position: 3

Played: 16 | Points: 30

Remaining fixtures: Odisha FC (February 24), Bengaluru FC (February 27), Chennaiyin FC (March 3), Jamshedpur FC (March 7).

Like Hyderabad, ATK Mohun Bagan need three wins to guarantee qualification, but have an easier go of things. They could lose to fellow title contenders Jamshedpur, and could still make it to the playoffs by virtue of defeating Odisha, Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin. Even if ATKMB are restricted to two wins from their final five games, they could qualify by avoiding a loss in the other two games.

Current position: 4

Played: 16 | Points: 27

Remaining fixtures: Hyderabad FC (February 23), Chennaiyin FC (February 26), Mumbai City FC (March 2), FC Goa (March 6).

Kerala Blasters occupy the last playoff spot and are five points behind league-leaders Hyderabad. The equation for the Blasters is simple — four wins guarantees qualification, but given their opponents in the run-in, that’s easier said than done. Defeating Mumbai in their penultimate game would be a huge boon, as that would mean Kerala would only require three wins instead of four, if Bengaluru FC drop points in their final four games as well.

Ergo, Kerala could lose their game against title-rivals Hyderabad, but would still qualify by defeating Chennaiyin, Mumbai and Goa in their last three games, all while requiring BFC to drop points.

Current position: 5

Played: 18 | Points: 26

Remaining fixtures: ATK Mohun Bagan (February 27), SC East Bengal (March 5).

A 2-1 win over Odisha has boosted BFC’s slim playoff chances. Bengaluru, though, are dependent on the clubs above them dropping points, but also have the advantage of facing only one of them in their run in. BFC will go into their game against ATK Mohun Bagan with an extra three days’ worth of rest — which in an attritional season could be quite crucial.

Thus, it is not inconceivable for Bengaluru to win both of their remaining two games, which would take them up to 32 points. However, they will need all the clubs above to drop points against minnows – a scenario that seems quite unlikely – a miracle, if anything.

Current position: 6

Played: 16 | Points: 25

Remaining fixtures: SC East Bengal (February 22), FC Goa (February 26), Kerala Blasters (March 2), Hyderabad FC (March 5).

Greg Stewart’s injury-time penalty to hand Jamshedpur a 3-2 win over Mumbai in their most recent game could have huge repercussions. Not only were the defending champions denied a chance to dent the points total of those above them, they lost a crucial point approaching the run-in.

Mumbai can reach a maximum of 37 points this season, which would require them beating both Kerala and Hyderabad in their final two games, but those two teams could still qualify even after losing to Mumbai. Mumbai’s fate is not in their own hands, and they require other teams doing them a favour against the teams above MCFC in the table.

Current position: 7

Played: 18 | Points: 22

Remaining fixtures: ATK Mohun Bagan (February 24), Jamshedpur FC (March 4).

A loss to Bengaluru FC effectively rules out Odisha from top four spot, with any other points dropped in their final two games against title contenders ATKMB and Jamshedpur mathematically ruling Odisha out.

Even if Odisha win all their remaining games, they will still require most of the other teams above them to only deal in draws, while also needing Goa, SCEB and NEUFC to pick up multiple wins — an extremely unlikely scenario.

Current position: 8 (Eliminated)

Played: 18 | Points: 20

Remaining fixtures: Kerala Blasters (February 26), ATK Mohun Bagan (March 3).

A 4-1 hammering at the hands of Jamshedpur meant Chennaiyin’s faint qualification hopes have been extinguished. The former champions still have to face title contenders in their run-in and could conceivably lose all their remaining games in what has been a disappointing season.

Current position: 9 (Eliminated)

Played: 18 | Points: 18

Remaining fixtures: Mumbai City (February 26), Kerala Blasters (March 6).

FC Goa are out of playoff contention after defeat against Hyderabad FC.

Current position: 10 (Eliminated)

Played: 18 | Points: 13

Remaining fixtures: Jamshedpur FC (February 25), SC East Bengal (February 28).

Khalid Jamil’s side will be hoping to avoid an ignominious last-placed finish, and an impressive 2-1 win over Bengaluru FC in their most recent game ought to give them plenty of hope, even if their season is effectively over.

Current position: 11 (Eliminated)

Played: 17 | Points: 10

Remaining fixtures: Mumbai City (February 22), NorthEast United (February 28), Bengaluru FC (March 5).

SC East Bengal have nothing left to play for, but could strike a few blows in the playoff race against MCFC and BFC.

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