Hero ISL Predictions & Previews – Second Leg 2018/19

Hero ISL Predictions & Previews – Second Leg 2018/19

Real football is all set to return to Indian shores with the resumption of the Indian Super League on Friday. As it stands, undefeated Bengaluru FC sit atop the league followed by Mumbai City, FC Goa and NorthEast United with defending champions Chennaiyin FC sitting at the bottom of the table.

It’s been a topsy-turvy season and every team in the league has put out a few questionable results/performances. BFC might be top of the table and look set to make another ISL final, but, their performances have been lacklustre. 

BFC, along with second placed Mumbai City, are, respectively, 5.38 and 9.18 (!) points ahead of where they should be in the table. This sort of over-performance isn’t truly sustainable in the long term.

Both teams have preferred to sit back and soak pressure while trying to counter but have struggled for different reasons. In BFC’s case, with Miku only playing in 4 games this season, Chhetri having a predictable dip in goal-scoring, and Xisco struggling to make a mark (0 goals and 1 assist), the Blues have struggled going forward. 

Eric Paartalu, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Rahul Bheke and Chencho have chipped in with some crucial goals, but these players aren’t reliable sources for consistent goals. Admittedly, saying that BFC is lucky might sound a little rich given that they’re 3 points and a game clear of Mumbai City. 

For Mumbai on the other hand, the issue has been the balance and the fact that 38% of their points could be termed as “underserved”. They’ve created 16 xG in but have conceded 15 xG at the other end. Their actual goals scored and conceded are 20 and 12. Essentially, I don’t believe that their +8 GD is indicative of their ability as it varies significantly from their +1.5 xGD. 

While it might look like Jorge Costa has everything under control, most of Mumbai’s goals come early in games, giving them the freedom to sit back and counter. When they don’t score early, they do not look as comfortable. 

Similarly, the three teams at the bottom of the table are under-performing by 7.01 (Blasters), 7.89 (Dynamos) and a whopping 11.04 points in Chennaiyin’s case. This would seemingly indicate that these teams haven’t really deserved to lose matches and deeper dives are necessary. The story with all three teams is a case of not taking their chances. These teams generally create more xG in a game than their opponents but have struggled to score as well as keep goals out. 

The key takeaway is that teams who are over/under-performing above/below a particular limit, will tend to regress towards the mean, ie, over-performing teams might get worse and under-performers will eventually improve. 

Predictions 

The Expected Goals data was taken along with the league average scoring and conceding rates, home/away scoring rates etc. And with this, I was able to build a system to simulate the rest of the league 10k times. The results are as follows.

A little note on how to read these predictions. 

Most people might tend to look at the most likely finishing position and assume that the team will finish there. But, the reason analysts model these things in probability terms is because there is a lot of uncertainty and anything can happen. The best way to understand the above data is by assuming that a team could finish anywhere within the RANGE of positions. 

For example, rather than looking at it and saying things like BFC will finish 1st or FC Goa will finish 2nd, we can say that it’s highly unlikely that BFC will finish outside the top 3 or it is almost impossible that Chennaiyin will finish above 8th place. 

Team Previews 

Bengaluru FC

Anything but the trophy and restoring the club to continental football will be seen as a failure. With the psychological and physical dominance that they’ve shown in the first half of the season, they should be favourites for the trophy. 

Having said that, their attacking play is a major concern. The stats don’t like BFC this year, either, and it looks like it’s set up for them to fall in the playoffs again. 

Minimum Expectation: Win the final and qualify for the AFC Cup
Key Man: Harman Khabra has brought balance to the force but can he maintain it?
Prediction: Winners 

Mumbai City

The Islanders started the season slowly, but everything changed after their first tie against Delhi, their 5th game. The game before had seen them concede 5 against FC Goa, but following that disaster, Mumbai has not allowed anybody to outplay them, even in xG terms. They kept 4 consecutive clean sheets and even managed to score 6 against the Blasters. 

Minimum Expectation: Playoff Qualifications
Key Man: Paulo Machado – everything good that Mumbai do go through the deep-lying playmakers
Prediction: Playoffs. Scoring goals will not be as easy as they made it look prior to the international breaks 

FC Goa 

At the start of the season, it looked like even BFC wouldn’t be able to catch the Gaurs. However, defensive flaws and suspect goalkeeping have brought Goa crashing down to third place and in a scrap for playoff qualification. 

Minimum Expectation: Playoff Qualifications
Key Man: Mohammad Nawaz: If Nawaz can keep producing moments of brilliance at key points, Goa have a fighting chance of going all the ways 
Prediction: Playoffss 

NorthEast United 

Nobody could have predicted that NorthEast would be fighting for playoff qualification this season. Eelco Schattorie has done a wonderful job with the Guwahati side, but, even he knows that there are huge problems. 

They have the second worst attack and 75% of their goals have come from two players. A single injury or suspension could cripple them. 

The good news is that they have the second-best defence in the league and are slightly under-performing in that respect, so they should probably get better. 

Minimum Expectation: Already over-achieving but playoff qualification now that they are heres
Key Man: Bart Ogbeche is the hottest striker in the league but if his goals dry up, NeUtd will be in huge troubles
Prediction: Playoffss 

Jamshedpur FC 

With Carlos Calvo suspended and Sergio Cidoncha out for the season, the responsibility for creating chances for the Red Miners will fall on Mario Arques and Tim Cahill. 

Arques has been good but is not a natural #10 and Cahill hasn’t looked completely settled, therefore, the onus is on Cesar Ferrando to somehow come up with a functional team that does not sacrifice their defensive solidity but is still a threat to the opponent goal. 

Minimum Expectation: Playoff Qualifications
Key Man: Cesar Ferrando – No longer has the luxury of individual brilliance, it’s up to the coach to win games through tactical thinkings
Prediction: 5ths 

ATK 

Steve Coppell’s side has had another trademark Steve Coppell season – they’re the median team in the league. They’ve got defensive solidity by the truckload but can’t buy a goal. 

With Noussair El Maimouni and Eli Babalj being moved out, and only Edu Garcia coming in, it looks like the problems in attack could continue for the rest of the season. 

There was a slight improvement towards the end of the first leg when Jayesh Rane and Hitesh Sharma were complimenting Lanzarote but nothing major came of it. 

Minimum Expectation: Playoff Qualifications
Key Man: Manuel Lanzarote – Where are the goals and assists? Only 2 goals and 3 assists means the Spaniard has not lived up to his price tag (another thing we predicted almost a year ago)s
Prediction: 6ths 

FC Pune City 

After sacking the coach just 3 games into the season, interim coach Pradhyum Reddy struggled to get the team going. They were highly defensive and crippled by suspended and injured foreign attackers. 

It took them 8 games to get a win but after that, they 3 out of their last 5 games. The key change was shifting to 3 at the back and trying to counter with their best players central and close to each other. 

With Phil Brown taking over, the Stallions not much stability can be expected from them and might have to completely write off this season. 

Minimum Expectation: Don’t lose all 6 remaining games
Key Man: Marcelinho – Ian Hume isn’t fully fit and Diego has had his issues. Goals and assists will have to come from the mercurial Brazilians
Prediction: 7th or 8ths 

Delhi Dynamos 

Delhi has been incredibly unlucky or incredibly terrible at finishing their chances – depending on how you look at it. Andrija Kaludjerovic has been replaced with Ulises Davila and all eyes will be on the Mexican heading into the second phase of the league. 

His goalscoring record isn’t the greatest, but, of the bottom 4 teams, Delhi is best placed to have a good end to the season. 

Minimum Expectation: Finish as high as possibles
Key Man: Lallianzuala Chhangte – The youngster is set for a trial with a European side, but it will all mean nothing if he cannot produce end product in a games
Prediction: 7th or 8ths 

Kerala Blasters 

Another club that has replaced their manager, the Blasters shouldn’t have really any expectation for the rest of the season. Nelo Vingada has come in and should be given 6 games to settle and learn about his players and the rest of the league before planning an assault for next year. 

The Blasters’ management has also begun the process of clearing out the big earners at the club and are preparing for… well, not much is known of that. 

Minimum Expectation: Don’t lose all 6 remaining gamess
Key Man: Seiminlen Doungel – The 1 player that looked lively for Kerala. Always gets in good positions, but needs to start convertings
Prediction: Bottom 3s 

Chennaiyin FC 

The defending champions have had one of the worst seasons imaginable. A solitary win, at Pune and only 5 points from 12 games means that they are pretty much doomed to finish last. 

They’ve had problems creating goals and being a threat on the wings and have looked to solve the problem by bringing in CK Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary from Kerala. The problem, however, is that neither of them is known for their creating abilities. 

With captain Mailson Alves suspended for violent conduct, Chennaiyin will have their focus firmly on the AFC Cup. 

Minimum Expectation: Don’t lose all 6 remaining games
Key Man: Raphael Augusto – For all his brilliance, the Brazilian has only managed 2 goals and an assist.
Prediction: 10th