ISL 2020-21: From Mumbai City FC's dominance to Bengaluru FC's collapse, a look at key storylines from season
With the home stretch of ISL 2020-21 fast approaching, Firstpost takes a look at some of the key storylines from the season so far.
This season of the Indian Super League has had more than its fair share of ups and downs, and with just over eight match weeks of action still to be played, qualification for the playoff spots looks within reach for almost all of the 11 teams. With the home stretch of the campaign fast approaching, Firstpost take a look at some of the key storylines from the season so far:
Mumbai City look set for record-breaking season
Everyone knew that Mumbai City were going to do well this time around. How could they not? With Sergio Lobera at the helm, they had one of the most progressive coaches in the country, someone who had already implemented his philosophy to tremendous effect at FC Goa. And if that weren't enough to go on, Mumbai City FC backed Lobera to the hilt with some serious investment in players, most of whom they plundered from Lobera's previous set up at FC Goa.
With all that infrastructure in place, it's not surprising that Mumbai City FC currently find themselves five points clear at the top of the table, with 29 points in 12 games played so far. They're also well on track to break the previous points record for the league stage of the ISL, and are just 11 points behind Bengaluru's record tally of 40 points in the 2017-18 season.
Hyderabad FC show resilience
Last season was Hyderabad FC's first-ever season as a club. Having only just been spoken into existence months before the beginning of the ISL's 2019-20 season, it was understandable that they didn't do too well. In fact, they did terribly. Hyderabad finished rock-bottom of the league, with just two wins to their name.
But out of the ashes of last season's disappointment has risen a phoenix, for Hyderabad FC look a lot more resilient this time around. Under the guidance of Spaniard Manuel Marquez Roca, the club find themselves sitting pretty in fourth place, with a two-point cushion. Goals have also been coming easily for the Nizams, most notably in the first couple of weeks of January, where they scored four goals in back-to-back matches, beating Chennaiyin FC and NorthEast United FC. While there's still a ways to go in this season, Hyderabad have shown that they have more than enough resolve to nail down a playoff spot for themselves.
Bengaluru FC fall from grace
What's gone wrong over at Bengaluru FC's headquarters? Just a year ago, the Blues looked like one of the most solid outfits in the league, but at the moment, they're struggling to climb their way out of the bottom half of the table. They've also parted with coach Carles Cuadrat, bringing to an end a three-year partnership with the Spaniard that saw the club win the Indian Super League title on one occasion.
Stranded in seventh place at the moment, they are four points away from the championship places. While that might not seem like an insurmountable gap, their form has also been trending downwards, and a record of five defeats and one draw in their last six matches does not bode well for the former champions.
FC Goa's resurgence
This season did not start well for FC Goa. In fact, the damage seemed to be done before the season even began. A long relationship with coach Sergio Lobera had ended rather abruptly in the 2019-20 season, leaving them in desperate need of a coach. They addressed that need by hiring what was essentially a younger version of Lobera in Spaniard Juan Ferrando, but were immediately left with another, much bigger problem in the shape of a mass exodus of key players to Mumbai City FC.
With their spine essentially ripped out of the team, FC Goa were forced to sign a number of new players, and as it to be expected with any squad that's only played together for a few weeks, the team struggled. Three defeats and two draws in their opening seven games saw them plummet to the bottom half of the table. Things looked bleak for the Gaurs, who after seasons of dominance in the league, were looking at the first truly difficult spell they've faced in a while.
But lately, things have begun to change. FC Goa has begun to change. A side that was once known for reckless, end-to-end attacking football appears to have a bit of pragmatism in its approach. Goa, under their young manager, have pulled off a reversal of fortunes, and now find themselves in third place, a couple of points above Hyderabad. If they can continue to quietly build momentum like they've been doing for the past few weeks, this new and exciting squad could be destined for great things.
Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro at ₹499 for the first year. Use code PRO499. Limited period offer. *T&C apply
ISL 2020-21: Bipin Singh scores hat-trick as Mumbai City thrash Odisha FC to keep hopes of first-place finish alive
After Odisha had taken a shock early lead through Diego Mauricio (9th minute), Mumbai hit back hard through goals from Bartholomew Ogbeche (14th, 43rd), Bipin Singh (38th, 47th, 86th) and Cy Goddard (44th).
Goa are in pole position and need just a point to reach the final four, while Hyderabad require a win to make the next stage.
Bengaluru interim coach Naushad Moosa insisted that his side aren't putting much pressure on themselves as they prepare to take on FC Goa at the Fatorda Stadium on Sunday.