For two Indian teams, the season is still not over as Chennaiyin FC and Minerva Punjab battle it out in the 2019 AFC Cup. Both teams are pitted in the same group and according to the regulations, only one side can make it to the next round.
At the halfway stage (three matchdays), Chennaiyin (CFC) lead Group E with 7 points while Minerva Punjab (MPFC) are third with 3 points. Bangladesh's Dhaka Abahani Limited (DAL) are sandwiched between in second spot with 4 points and Nepalese outfit Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) are at the bottom with just a single point.
All four clubs remain in the hunt to make it beyond the group stage. Both the Indian sides are unbeaten as Chennaiyin have won twice and drawn once. Minerva Punjab are winless too, drawing all three of their games so far!
Only the winner of the group make it to the Inter-zone play-off semi-finals. If two or more teams end up level on points after the completion of all matches, the following sequence of tie-breakers are applied to determine the group winners:
- Points in head-to-head matches among tied teams;
Goal difference (GD) in head-to-head matches among tied teams;
Goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams;
Away goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams;
If more than two teams are tied, and after applying criteria one to four, a subset of teams are still tied, criteria 1 to 4 are reapplied exclusively to this subset of teams. In case those criterions still fail to divide the teams, then they will be separated as follows:
Goal difference in all group matches;
Goals scored in all group matches;
Penalty shoot-out if only two teams are tied and they met in the last round of the group;
Disciplinary points (yellow card = 1 point, red card as a result of two yellow cards = 3 points, direct red card = 3 points, yellow card followed by direct red card = 4 points);
Team from the higher-ranked association.
Remaining group fixtures:
15 May vs Dhaka Abahani (A)
19 June vs Minerva Punjab (A)
26 June vs Manang Marshyangdi (A)
Leading the group with 7 points with a three-point gap, Chennaiyin are in pole position to win the group. However, we speculate the scenarios for the Machans in which they can top Group E below:
7 Points - Losing all the three remaining games makes it impossible for Chennaiyin to top the group irrespective of the results of other teams.
8 Points -
- Draw vs DAL, lose other two: Abahani (7) will need to draw with Minerva Punjab (7), Manang Marshyangdi (8) will need to win against MPFC and draw against Abahani and not defeat Chennaiyin by more than a 1-0 scoreline;
- Draw vs MPFC, lose other two: Minerva Punjab (6) will need to draw their other two games, Manang Marshyangdi (8) will need to defeat Abahani (8), Chennaiyin then will need to have a cumulative superior GD;
- Draw vs MMC, lose other two: Manang Marshyangdi (8) will need to win their other two games, Minerva Punjab (7/5) will need to win OR draw against Abahani (7/8), making sure it is not more than a 1-0 loss for Chennaiyin at Dhaka with a better total GD than Abahani.
9 Points -
- Draw vs DAL & MPFC, lose vs MMC: Abahani (9), Manang Marshyangdi (8) and Minerva Punjab (8) will need to drop points in one of their two respective games;
- Draw vs DAL & MMC, lose vs MPFC: Minerva Punjab (8) needs to drop points in both their games, other result will not matter;
- Draw vs MPFC & MMC, lose vs DAL: Abahani (9) needs to drop points in both their games and it cannot be more than a 1-0 loss for Chennaiyin at Dhaka with a better total GD than Abahani, other result will not matter.
10 Points - If Chennaiyin lose to Abahani on the fourth matchday, they will need to win against Minerva Punjab in Guwahati and hope Minerva Punjab defeat Abahani on the final matchday. Also, if Chennaiyin lose to Manang Marshyangdi, they will need to ensure a better total GD than Abahani to win the group.
11 Points - A win against Abahani followed by at least a point against Minerva Punjab will ensure the Indian Super League (ISL) side win the group with a game in hand, irrespective of other results.
Remaining group fixtures:
15 May vs Manang Marshyangdi (A)
19 June vs Chennaiyin (H)
26 June vs Dhaka Abahani (H)
Placed third with three points from as many games, the former I-League champions are both unbeaten and winless at the same time! We speculate the worst-case scenarios for the Warriors in which they can top Group E below:
3/4/5/6/7 Points - Anything less than 8 points on board will result in elimination of the North Indian side.
8 Points - Draws against MMC and CFC, but will need to end with a win over DAL. But, Manang Marshyangdi (6) will need to win against Chennaiyin and draw with DAL. Chennaiyin (8) will need to lose against Abahani (8) too but Minerva will need to have a better total GD over the ISL side.
9 Points - Have to win against Chennaiyin and if:
- Win vs DAL, lose vs MMC: Chennaiyin will need to drop points in their other two games, DAL and MMC cannot win both their respective games;
- Win vs MMC, lose vs DAL: DAL (8) will need to lose against MMC and draw with CFC, Chennaiyin (9) will need to draw with MMC (5) too.
10 Points -
- Win vs CFC & DAL, draw vs MMC: Chennaiyin (10) will need to lose one of their two other games, other results will not matter;
- Win vs CFC & MMC, draw vs DAL: Chennaiyin (10) will need to lose one of their two other games and Abahani (9) will need to drop points in at least one game;
- Win vs DAL & MMC, draw vs CFC: Abahani (10) will need to win both their games but if Chennaiyin (10) draw both, Minerva's total GD need to be superior than Chennaiyin's.
12 Points - Even after winning all the three games, Minerva Punjab still will need to hope Chennaiyin drop points in at least one of their two games in order to win the group.