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ISL 2018-19: Unbeaten Bengaluru in the lead but top four race is still on

04:15 GMT 19/01/2019
Miku Bengaluru FC ISL 2018-19
As many as six clubs are in the race for a playoffs spot in the 2018-19 season of Indian Super League...

After a break of 40 days, the 2018-19 season of Indian Super League will be back underway on January 25, with a fascinating top-four race in store for the fans.

Bengaluru FC are once again leading the pack just like they did last season but ISL uses a playoff system to determine the winner, which means that all that matters is getting a top-four spot. 

Having picked up an impressive total of 27 points from their 11 matches so far, Carles Cuadrat's unbeaten Blues are on a roll for the second consecutive season. However, a challenging set of fixtures await the league leader in the final stage of the league. 

Bengaluru and FC Goa have seven games left to play. Of the remaining fixtures of the former, four games are against teams in contention for the top-four. And to make the challenge tougher, they are set to play five matches in 21 days in February. 

Team Matches against Top Six Matches Against Bottom Four
Bengaluru FC 4 3
Mumbai City 5 1
FC Goa 4 3
NorthEast United 2 4
Jamshedpur FC 4 2
ATK  3 3
Pune City 4 2
Kerala Blasters 4 2
Delhi Dynamos 4 2
Chennaiyin FC 4 2

Striker Miku's return will be a big boost for the Blues as they look to preserve their unbeaten record this season. A couple of bad results could take the top spot away from them but they are unlikely to finish worse than fourth spot. 

With just five points separating second-placed Mumbai City and fifth-placed Jamshedpur, it is looking likely that the race for top-four could go all the way into the final round of fixtures. With 16 points in their kitty, sixth-placed ATK also have a chance of making it into the playoffs with a string of good results. Only three points separate ATK and Jamshedpur and they go head to head on February 3, 2019.

The foreign players of Mumbai City were in an incredible run of and Jorge Costa's side went into the break after a 6-1 thrashing of Kerala Blasters. But the Islanders cannot take the foot off the gas as only one of their remaining fixtures is against a team in the last four positions on the table. Their next five games are against the current top six and a bad run could well derail their fortunes.

As for NorthEast United and FC Goa, the foreigners have stepped up and delivered. Ferran Corominas is leading Golden Boot race and is also top of the assists chart. He is closely followed in both deparments by foreign players of Mumbai City and NorthEast United. While Sergio Lobera will be hoping to avoid a drop in form like in January last season, the form of Bartholomew Ogbeche and Federico Gallego will be crucial for the Highlanders in their final push. 

It is also possible that teams from the bottom could go on a good run and make an impact in the final standings, similar to how Delhi Dynamos had an excellent second-half of the season during the 2017-18 ISL and how Gokulam Kerala's 'giant-killing' in the I-League last season threw the title race wide open. These teams will feel like the season has been reset and with new additions in the January transfer window, the race for the playoffs has an unpredictable feel to it.