The Indian Super League play-offs got underway with a bang on Wednesday. Well, not really Bengaluru travelled to Pune and to say the 0-0 draw failed to live up to expectations could be an understatement.
Bengaluru are still in with a chance of winning the treble, those titles including the League, Super Cup and the AFC title.
The League Title
With the away goal rule in place for this years play-offs means Pune will travel to the table toppers on Sunday knowing that if they get the first goal they will have to concede two to forfeit their place in the final, enough to give any team confidence.
It was a very tense affair with all the stats at an even playing field, with Pune just edging total touches and passes with their possession, this will surely change in the second leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. Having said this in the league fixture at Bengaluru, it finished 1-1 and a repeat of this will see Pune in the final.
With Chennaiyin and Goa in the other semi finals, Bengaluru will maybe struggle given two of their four defeats in the league this season have come against these opponents. I fancy Goa to prevail in this one, given Chennai’s struggles in the league of late and Goa’s firepower should be more than enough to reach the final and maybe even win the whole thing.
In current form, the title is in Bengaluru’s hands and if they play like they have done, going unbeaten since January then this could be the first of the potential treble in the bag.
The top six clubs from both the Super League and I-League join together in a knockout format for the Super Cup which starts at the end of March into April. The last four places are decided by play-offs between the bottom four teams or each league.
Bengaluru could also fancy their chances in this competition as-well. Their main contenders from the I-League could be surprising first time champions of the league, Minerva and Aizawl.
With the knockout format being such a unknown exciting territory where anything could happen, don’t be surprised if someone like Delhi could go far after their prolific end to the Indian Super League.
As for Bengaluru’s chances of making it two from two for 2018? The chances are likely to say the least.
Now this is where it gets tricky, having strolled through their preliminary tie against TC Sports 2-8. Bengaluru have been placed in a somewhat simple group with many predicting the Super League outfit to go through.
With 44 teams in the competition, it really is anyones to win but so much harder to do so then for me to say so. The current champions of the tournament are Iraqi Premier League Champions, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, who have won the AFC Cup twice in a row. Other strong challengers include the teams from Jordan such as Al-Faisaly and Al-Jazeera.
If Bengaluru can get through there group as winners to avoid the best second place rule and then secure a tie against one of the so called lesser teams (if there are any) then they have a chance of going far. As for winning the whole thing, my guess is as good as yours but for me, unfortunately not.