The ongoing 2021/22 season of the Indian Super League (ISL) is entering its business end.
After Hyderabad FC, Jamshedpur FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, Kerala Blasters became the fourth and the final team to qualify for the play-offs this season, having secured 33 points from 19 matches.
In a must-win tie, Mumbai City faced Hyderabad but the reigning champions lost 1-2 against the Nizams and crashed out of the race for the semifinal berth.
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With the champions out, the four teams who have qualified for the play-offs have never won the ISL title or the ISL League Winners Shield. So this season will witness new champions. Jamshedpur and Hyderabad will be playing in the play-offs for the first time.
Bengaluru FC, Odisha FC, FC Goa, Chennaiyin FC, NorthEast United and East Bengal had earlier crashed out from the top-four race.
Kerala Blasters play their final match of the league stage on Sunday against FC Goa but the outcome of the match will not affect their league position as they can reach a maximum of 36 points if they manage to beat the Gaurs.
The last time Kerala qualified for the semifinals was back in 2016 under the tutelage of Steve Coppell. They had managed to beat Delhi Dynamos in the semis and reach the final where they lost to eventual winners ATK FC in penalties.
This will be the third time that the Yellow Army will play in the play-offs. The last two times they finished among the top four teams (2014 and 2016), they had reached the final but lost on both occasions to ATK.