With the grand success of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in India, the Indian Super League has seen a surge in interest from fans across the country. Almost a decade after it was founded, the league is finally making a genuine impact on the sport in the country, becoming the second-most searched league on Google. The increase in interest can also be attributed to the improvement in the quality of the teams this season, with on-the-field action meeting the expectations of the fans of the clubs.
As the Indian Super League enters a new year, let’s take a look at where the league stands mid-way through its 2022-23 season:
Best Performing Teams
Defending champions Hyderabad FC dominated the proceedings for much of the first-half of the season. Manolo Marquez’s men end the year at the top of the table with 28 points from 12 fixtures, with 9 wins and two draws – losing just one game in the season so far. This is arguably the best-ever start to a season by any team in the history of the Indian Super League, and their berth in the playoffs is more or less guaranteed given their super form.
While attacking prowess has been Hyderabad’s key to success during the last season , the Nizams have combined that with defensive resilience to stay on the top this season. They have conceded just seven goals so far, the lowest of all the teams in the league. With the second-highest goal tally in the league at 24, their attacking spirit has only slightly dampened since the last season.
Much of Hyderabad’s success over the past two years can be attributed to Manolo Marquez’s shrewd managerial abilities. The squad has been kept intact at the core, while key transfer signings before the season strengthened their weak defensive unit. The 6-1 victory over NorthEast United two days ago is their best outing on the field so far and given their form, Hyderabad are the favourites to clinch the trophy this season.
Mumbai City FC
Mumbai City FC are giving tough competition to Hyderabad at the top of the table, with just one point separating both teams. Des Buckingham’s men remain unbeaten in the tournament so far – with eight victories and two draws in 11 games. Mumbai have adopted an aggressive approach to their games – averaging slightly less than three goals a match, making their encounters highly watchable.
With 32 goals from 11 matches, Mumbai City are miles ahead of any other team in the Indian Super League. Greg Stewart has been at the forefront of Mumbai’s aggressive play on the field – making 23 shots on target in the season and producing seven assists. While the defensive unit can use some tweaks, Mumbai City have no major issues heading into the transfer window. Along with Hyderabad FC, they are the favourites to win the Indian Super League this season.
Worst Performing Teams
NorthEast United FC
One of the weakest teams in the history of the Indian Super League, there is no redeeming factor about NorthEast United FC this season. A solitary win over ATK Mohun Bagan last week was their only moment of joy this season, with Vincenzo Annese’s men having the worst-ever start to a season in the tournament’s history. NorthEast United have lost 11 of the 12 games they played, conceding an average of 2.75 goals per fixture.
With no bright spot in their lineup, the chances of NorthEast United executing a comeback in the season are highly unlikely. A last-place finish looks to be the only possibility for the beleaguered club, with a focus on trimming down the losses with a defensive approach as the best course of action remaining.
Jamshedpur FC are giving tough competition to NorthEast United FC at the bottom of the table – with just five points from 11 games in the season so far. A win against NorthEast United in October has been their only saving grace during an otherwise dull season, with Aidy Boothroyd’s men managing to score just 8 goals in the past two months – the joint-lowest in the league.
It is truly a fall from grace for Jamshedpur, who broke all records to win the ISL League Winners’ Shield last season. The departure of Owen Coyle has truly hurt the team the most, with the players failing to find cohesion in the middle. Unlike NorthEast United FC, however, Jamshedpur still have the ability to turn the season around with a more pragmatic approach to the game and still avoid relegation. It remains to be seen if they will be able to execute such a turnaround.
Will The New Format Be A Success?
The Indian Super League has announced a change in playoff format ahead of the season, with the season going back to a home-and-away model after a gap due to the pandemic. The league is now being played for five months, with regular weekend fixtures helping draw record audiences to the stadium. Six teams will now compete in the playoffs instead of four – increasing the chances of upset wins in the final stages of the tournament.
Ensuring that six teams make it to the playoffs also widens the fan pool that will follow the league towards the tail-end of the season. Currently, six teams – ATK Mohun Bagan, Kerala Blasters FC, FC Goa, Odisha FC, Chennaiyin FC and East Bengal FC – are in close contention for the remaining four playoff berths – making the mid-table battles enthralling.
With more than three months remaining in the season, thrilling encounters between the teams are likely to attract even more fans to the stadiums. The Indian Super League is slowly but surely making strides in capturing attention in the country.
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