5 Must-Watch ISL 2020-21 League Table Decider Matches

HFC’s Akash Mishra and NEUFC’s Luis Machado
HFC’s Akash Mishra dribbles past NEUFC’s Luis Machado (Image Credit: Indian Super League)

The league stage of the Indian Super League 2020-21 season has been an exhilarating journey and it will come to an end in less than 10 days with the dates for playoffs already announced.

With two teams already qualified for the semi-finals stage, two spots are up for grabs and three teams have identical points tally and all three teams will be going full throttle to make it to the knockout stages in the seventh edition of the ISL. Hyderabad FC, FC Goa, and NorthEast United FC have 27 points in 18 matches courtesy of 6 wins, 9 draws, and 3 losses each.

While Hyderabad FC hasn’t lost a single match in the calendar year 2021 enjoying an unbeaten streak of 10 matches, FC Goa last lost a game of football before Christmas and is enjoying a similar unbeaten run of 11 matches. NorthEast United FC also hasn’t lost a single match since Khalid Jamil took charge of the team and is on an unbeaten run of 7 matches that includes wins against the table-toppers ATK Mohun Bagan and Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai City as well.

Let’s have a look at five matches you can’t afford to miss in the last week of February with the action-packed week offering a lot in terms of the match-ups.

#1 Hyderabad FC v ATK Mohun Bagan FC 

Manvir Singh scores a goal in the return fixture (Image Credit: Indian Super League)

Hyderabad FC faces table-toppers ATK Mohun Bagan FC in the first match of the last week of the ISL 2020-21 league stage fixtures.

The Nizams face Kolkata giants ATK Mohun Bagan in a tough test as both FC Goa and NorthEast United FC have easier penultimate matches against the inconsistent Bengaluru FC and SC East Bengal respectively.

Manolo Marquez’s men are in fine form though as they beat Kerala Blasters FC 4-0 in their last match and will force Antonio Lopez Habas to field his best side at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Monday.

In the return fixture, the two sides battled out a 1-1 draw courtesy of an opening goal from Manvir Singh and an equalizing penalty struck home by Joao Victor.

When: 22nd February at 7:30 pm 

Key Players: Roy Krishna, Aridane, Pritam Kotal, Akash Mishra 

#2 SC East Bengal v NorthEast United FC 

NorthEast United FC players celebrating a goal (Image Credit: Indian Super League)

League debutants SC East Bengal face dark horses NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Tuesday.

Robbie Fowler’s men have bounced back nicely after enduring a tough first few fixtures in the ISL. On the other hand, the Highlanders enjoyed a stellar start to the league season as they won two and drew two of their first four matches of the season. Since then, they have gone through a managerial change and their new manager Khalid Jamil is powering the club to a top-four finish.

Both the attacks consisting of in-form prolific attackers like Luis Machado, Bright Enobakhare, Deshorn Brown, and Anthony Pilkington would come up against the likes of Ashutosh Mehta, Sarthak Golui, Benjamin Lambot, and Danny Fox and it’s very tough to predict which mini-battle would eventually decide the result of the match.

In the return fixture, a first-half own goal from Surchandra Singh and an injury-time goal from Rochharzela helped Gerard Nus win his second league match in India.

When: 23rd February at 7:30 pm

Key Players: Luis Machado, Bright Enobakhare, Deshorn Brown, Matti Steinmann 

#3 NorthEast United FC v Kerala Blasters FC 

Kerala Blasters skipper Sergio Cidoncha and NorthEast United skipper Benjamin Lambot 

Kerala Blasters FC will play their last match of the season against NorthEast United FC at the Tilak Maidan Stadium.

The Highlanders have relatively easier fixtures compared to the teams they are competing with for the final two playoff spots but their rest between the two matches is minimal; just 2 days. Khalid Jamil would be hoping that his side wraps up both the matches in the first hour as he will be looking to have them fresh and fit for the knockout round.

The Yellow Army is now without Kibu Vicuna who resigned following a 4-0 defeat to Hyderabad FC and interim head coach Ishfaq Ahmed would be looking to impress his employers with a couple of good results before the end of the season.

In the return fixture, Kerala Blasters FC ran riot in the first half with Sergio Cidoncha opening the scoring with a precise header followed by a penalty converted by Gary Hooper. Kwesi Appiah pulled one goal just six minutes into the second half and Idrissa Sylla completed the comeback with a 90th-minute goal to salvage a 2-2 draw between the two sides.

When: 26th February at 7:30 pm

Key Players: Jordan Murray, Luis Machado, Sahal Abdul Samad, Federico Gallego

#4 FC Goa v Hyderabad FC

Joel Chianese and Ivan Gonzalez competing for the ball (Image Credit: Indian Super League)

FC Goa hosts Hyderabad FC at the Fatorda Stadium to kick-off last Super Sunday of the 2020-21 season of the ISL. The match could turn into a virtual quarter-final if NorthEast United wins both of their matches against SC East Bengal and Kerala Blasters FC.

Both FC Goa and Hyderabad FC underwent massive changes in the season break with both clubs hiring new managers and almost a new set of overseas players before the start of the season. The Gaurs and the Nizams have done well to stay in the fight of the top four places trumping settled and stable clubs like Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC.

In the return fixture, Hyderabad looked like they will run away with the three points courtesy of a 58th-minute goal from Aridane before Ishan Pandita scored his first ISL goal in the 87th minute of the match and Igor Angulo came up with the winner in the 91st minute to win all three points for Goa.

When: 28th February at 5 pm

Key Players: Igor Angulo, Aridane, Alberto Noguera, Joao Victor

#5 Mumbai City FC v ATK Mohun Bagan FC

Hugo Boumous takes a shot at ATK Mohun Bagan goal (Image Credit: Indian Super League)

Mumbai City FC hosts ATK Mohun Bagan FC at the GMC Bambolim Stadium in the last league stage match of the ongoing seventh edition of the Indian Super League.

As it stands, the winner of this match would eventually top the table and take home the ISL League Winners’ Shield. The Shield Winners would also automatically qualify for the group stages of the AFC Champions League.

Two of the top-three goalscorers in the 2020-21 ISL season, Roy Krishna and Adam le Fondre would come against stringent defenses that have conceded a combined 25 goals in 34 matches.

ATK Mohun Bagan would be looking to take revenge from Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai City who inflicted a defeat on Antonio Lopez Habas’s side in January. 

In the return fixture, the Islanders ran out 1-0 winners against the Mariners courtesy of a 69th-minute Bartholomew Ogbeche goal that separated the two sides and helped Sergio Lobera bag three crucial points.

When: 28th February at 7:30 pm

Key Players: Adam le Fondre, Roy Krishna, Ahmed Jahouh, Carl McHugh 

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