In their bid to push for the second spot, both Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC will have to treat their sixth-round fixtures as do-or-die ones, when they take on Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC respectively in the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) on Saturday.
FC Goa queered the pitch for Kerala Blasters FC the other day with a come-from-behind win over them, thus opening the doors for at least four teams to harbour hopes of a second-place finish with two rounds remaining.
The top two teams will participate in the NextGen Cup to be hosted in the United Kingdom for the first time later this year.
Hyderabad, Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC), Jamshedpur and Goa are all on seven points and need to win their remaining two games to secure the coveted top-two spot. A draw or defeat for any of the four teams will mean they are out of contention. Chennaiyin and Mumbai City FC are out of the race.
In the first kickoff at the Nagoa Ground on Saturday, Jamshedpur will have to right the wrongs from their last two matches against a Bengaluru side who have not put a foot wrong so far. Already assured of a place in the top two and a ticket to the NextGen Cup, the Blues have been perfect in their five matches and it will take some doing for other teams to knock them off their perch.
Jamshedpur lost their last two games, losing out on the early momentum and coach Indranil Chakraborty will know it is now or never for his charges. The Red Miners are in the fifth position in the eight-team table.
In the evening match at the Benaulim Ground, Hyderabad will have momentum on their side after a morale-lifting 5-0 win over Mumbai in their last engagement. Hyderabad are third in the table due to a better head-to-head record among the four teams in the fray and coach Shameel Chembakath will hope his wards build on the buoyant performance against lowly Chennaiyin.
Chennaiyin have two points from five games and languish in seventh place without a win so far. They were poor against a rampant Bengaluru in their last encounter and although the likes of Sufiyan Shaikh and Johnson Joseph showed spark, the team as a whole failed to click.
For the Marina Machans, that has been a theme throughout the competition and coach Cleofas Alex will have his work cut out as he looks to ensure a decent finish for his side.