The most crucial phase of the Indian Super League (ISL) this season starts in a few days. The cash-rich football tournament in India saw 56 gruelling matches come to a close on Sunday, and four teams have finally made it to the playoffs.
Defending champions Atletico de Kolkata, FC Goa, Delhi Dynamos, and Chennaiyin FC remain the four teams who will be battling for a place in the finals of the tournament this year.
None but Kolkata have the experience of making it to the finals of the ISL, so expect some fireworks this time around. The most striking difference this year in the tournament from last time has been the amount of goals. The numbers have increased manifold, and it is a pleasure to see Indians giving a tough competition to foreigners for a spot in the top scorers' chart.
Indian talisman Sunil Chhetri (Mumbai City FC) was locked in the ISL top scorers' list alongside Stiven Mendoza (Chennaiyin FC) for a couple of weeks, but the Colombian had the final laugh. Even Indian forward Mohammad Rafi (Kerala Blasters) was looking menacing during an amazing mid-season goalscoring spree.
Indian players showed some brilliant form in the goalkeeping department as well. Atletico de Kolkata's Indian custodian Amrinder Singh, FC Goa's Laxmikant Kattimani, as well as NorthEast United FC's Rehenesh have given immense competition to the foreign goalkeepers for the Golden Glove awards.
With the two-leg ISL playoffs about to start in a few days, we look at the players who could finish as Golden Boot and Golden Glove winners:
GOLDEN BOOT contenders:
Stiven Mendoza - The Colombian is just in a league of his own when it comes to scoring goals. The Chennaiyin FC forward currently has 11 goals so far, but expect that tally to increase once the semifinals get underway. He also has two assists from 13 games.
Iain Hume - It will be a close contest between Mendoza and Hume for the Golden Boot award. The mercurial ATK forward showed some spectacular form at the later half of the season to score a total of 10 goals in the league phase. Chennai and Kolkata go head-to-head in the ISL playoffs, and the performance of the Canadian and the Colombian will be the one to watch out for.
Reinaldo - The FC Goa forward can be the dark horse in the pack when it comes to putting up a challenge for the topscorer award. The lanky Brazilian may have seven goals thus far, but on a given day, if he gets his goalscoring boots on, expect fireworks.
GOLDEN GLOVE contenders:
Edel Bete - The former ISL champion with ATK is aiming to be the most decorated goalkeeper in ISL history with a title once more this time. Chennaiyin FC have conceded the least goals among the four teams, and Bete is the reason for that. The Cameroonian leads the standings now with a record of conceding one goal in 100 minutes.
Amrinder Singh - The ATK custodian is really making a name for himself in the ISL. The former Pune FC goalkeeper may have bagged just one clean sheet from 11 games, but his performance between the sticks has been praiseworthy.
Toni Doblas - Roberto Carlos rates Doblas as possibly one of his most influential players this season. The Spaniard has made a whopping 41 saves this season thus far, and his minutes per goals conceded stands at 75.
Laxmikant Kattimani - The Indian custodian has a habit of stealing the spotlight in the defence through his performances in goal. Kattimani has been immensely good for Zico's side this time, and his acrobatics have come in handy. Expect him to emulate his good showing in the ISL playoffs as well.