Heading into the final round of the Indian Super League (ISL) league phase fixtures, the pieces for the playoff spots are falling into place.
ATK Mohun Bagan, currently six points clear at the top of the points table, look favourites to finish at the top spot and clinch the ISL League Winners Shield along with the AFC Champions League slot.
Mumbai City FC, currently second on the table, though, still can leapfrog the Kolkata club to finish top if they win both their remaining fixtures - vs Odisha FC on February 21 and vs ATK Mohun Bagan on February 28.
Mumbai winning both their matches will see them tie ATK Mohun Bagan on 40 points, but due to their better head-to-head record this season over Antonio Habas' side, Sergio Lobera's charges, will finish over ATK Mohun Bagan in the table.
Mumbai City FC had beaten ATK Mohun Bagan 1-0 in the reverse fixture on January 11.
Irrespective of other results, though, ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City are certain to share the top two positions.
The real tussle of the final gameweek, however, will be for the two remaining ISL playoff spots with three teams - FC Goa (30 points from 19 matches), Hyderabad FC (28 points from 19 matches) and NorthEast United FC (27 points from 18 matches) – in contention.
FC Goa and Hyderabad FC, in fact, face off on the final matchday of the league phase and the match will be a pivotal one in the ISL 2020-21 top-four race.
How can FC Goa qualify for the ISL playoffs?
FC Goa's path to the top four is straightforward.
If FC Goa beat or draw against Hyderabad FC in their final match of the league phase, they will progress to the playoffs, no matter the results elsewhere.
Losing against Hyderabad FC, though, makes their road slightly complicated.
The result will see them finish on 30 points - one behind Hyderabad. In such a scenario, FC Goa will have to bank on NorthEast United FC not picking up more than three points from their remaining two matches to progress.
If the Highlanders pick up three and end level on points with the Gaurs, other factors will come into play.
As per ISL rules, the first differential if two teams end with the same number of points will be the head-to-head record and goal difference.
Interestingly, both FC Goa and NorthEast are on level footing in these having drawn their two meetings (1-1 and 2-2) this season.
Such a scenario will bring the overall goal difference in the league phase into play.
FC Goa, currently on +8 goal difference compared to NorthEast's +3 will be in the driver's seat to go through but the equation may change depending on the margin of victories and defeats in the remaining matches.
How can Hyderabad FC qualify for the ISL playoffs?
If Hyderabad FC win against FC Goa, they will reach 31 points and guarantee a place for themselves in the top four irrespective of other results.
However, if they draw or lose against Goa, Aridane Santana and Co. will have to rely on NorthEast's results. But as long as NorthEast don't overtake their points tally, Hyderabad FC will go through.
Even if Hyderabad and NorthEast end with equal number of points, the Nizams will progress courtesy their superior head-to-head record this season against the Highlanders.
Hyderabad won the first leg 4-2 and drew the second 0-0 against NorthEast this season.
How can NorthEast United FC qualify for the ISL playoffs?
If NorthEast win their remaining two matches - vs East Bengal on February 23 and Kerala Blasters FC on February 26 - or even pick up four points from these fixtures, they progress irrespective of other results.
In case NorthEast United FC pick up three points and end on 30, they'll still go through if Goa win or draw against Hyderabad FC.
Even if Hyderabad beat FC Goa, NorthEast have a very slim, yet unlikely, window if they can neutralise the +5 overall goal difference advantage Goa have over them.
Two points (draws) from the remaining matches will only suffice for the Highlanders if Hyderabad lose to FC Goa in the final matchday.
Anything less than that and Khalid Jamil's NorthEast will be knocked out.
Where to watch ISL matches live?
FC Goa vs Hyderabad FC and other ISL 2020-21 matches of round 22 will be telecast live on Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2, Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 Hindi and their respective HD TV channels in India.
The match will also be telecast on the Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Sports 1 Kannada and the Star Sports 1 Bangla regional TV channels.
Live streaming of ISL matches will be available on Disney+ Hotstar and Jio TV.
ISL 2020-21 fixtures for round 22 and live match times
All times are in Indian Standard Time (IST)
Thursday, February 25
Jamshedpur FC vs Bengaluru FC – 7:30 PM IST
Friday, February 26
NorthEast United FC vs Kerala Blasters FC – 7:30 PM IST
Saturday, February 27
Odisha FC vs East Bengal – 7:30 PM IST
Sunday, February 28
FC Goa vs Hyderabad FC – 5:00 PM IST
Mumbai City FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan – 7:30 PM IST
Lead photo: ISL Media