NorthEast United head coach Eelco Schattorie pointed out that only Delhi Dynamos had a tougher scheduling of fixtures than his team.

On the eve of the Highlanders’ game against table toppers Bengaluru FC, the Dutchman spoke of his team’s tough stretch after the second international break of the season, and how he and his team were hoping to avoid injuries during this stretch.

In his pre-match press conference, he said, “I think we have the second worst fixtures after Delhi. They are last and we are second so I’m not really complaining about this. I’m not saying that if we lose tomorrow, it’s because of the schedule. But I think the fixtures are not kind to us. We have three games in a row now. We face ATK and Goa after our game against Bengaluru. We have to ensure that we don’t come across any injuries.”

3-day gaps (barring international breaks)

Team Number of Occurrences
Delhi 4
Mumbai City 4
Chennaiyin 3
Jamshedpur 3
Kerala Blasters 3
Goa 2
Pune City 2
NorthEast United 2
Bengaluru 0

The Indian Super League has had two international breaks, both involving preparatory friendlies played by the Indian national team en route to the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.

The league hit the pause button from October 8 to 16 for the China game, which ended 0-0. The 2-1 away loss against Jordan again saw the ISL take a break from November 12 to 20. The league is scheduled to wind up its pre-Asian Cup fixtures on December 16.

Thus it would be misleading to simply calculate the gaps between the fixtures. It would be more prudent to look at the difference in days between matches in period between international breaks or between individual games taking place in the same period.

Based on the same numbers, it is observed that the Delhi Dynamos have played matches within a span of four days off seven times, the highest in the league. When the same duration is shortened to three days, it is still Delhi who lead the league, having done so on four occasions, joint-top with Mumbai City.

4 or fewer day gaps (barring breaks)

Team Number of Occurrences
Delhi 7
Jamshedpur 6
Chennaiyin 5
Pune City 5
NorthEast United 5
Bengaluru 4
Goa 4
Mumbai City 4
Kerala Blasters 3

Schattorie’s NorthEast United may be mid-table for both figures, but the Dutchman’s point is proven whilst looking at the stretch of games that his side are playing between the Jordan friendly and the break in the league for the Asian Cup.

The Highlanders’ play six matches in 22 days, the second-most gruelling fixture list in the first half of the ISL season. The Dynamos went one better, playing seven games in 22 days between the China and the Jordan games.

While the Dutchman has been able to keep NorthEast competitive, the Delhi Dynamos have sunk without a trace in their seven-game box-up, losing four matches and drawing the rest.

Delhi's seven-game stretch

Date Opponent Result
October 17 ATK (H) 1-2
October 20 Kerala Blasters (A) 1-1
October 23 Chennaiyin (H) 0-0
October 27 Mumbai City (A) 0-2
October 30 NorthEast United (H) 0-2
November 4 Jamshedpur (H) 2-2
November 8 FC Goa (A) 2-3

Bengaluru are experiencing a similar pile-up in the ongoing period to NorthEast, but the early season form of both teams mean that adverse results wouldn’t bump them out of the top four immediately.

Delhi’s testing stretch came at the start of the season, the capital side having played only one game prior to the Indian football team’s meeting with China. Pune City’s six game stretch in 23 days also arrived in the same period, with the Stallions, drawing one and losing five.

This left both the teams playing catch-up to the rest, having already fallen behind in the table. The Dynamos currently lie bottom of the table, with four points from 10 games. Pune City are a spot above, with five points from as many matches.

Every extra day of rest earned is well worth it. Delhi Dynamos have learnt that the tough way.