We have reached the last chapter of the regular season with three playoff spots locked up and one up for grabs. Samarra has a chance to lock up the #1 seed for the first time in league history with full points this Sunday. Hejaz has a outside chance to sneak into the playoffs but they will need lots of help. Here are the matchups for this Sunday. Jerusalem FC vs. Samarra FC (8:45PM on Field 3)
Jerusalem FC will be disappointed with a draw against Andalusia last week which could have been the match to see them through to the playoffs. They must certainly be relieved to take home a point to push Hejaz into a tiebreaker position if things go wrong in the last game of the season. The blues will surely call upon Atif Mian, who has missed a couple key games to make their case stronger as they hold on to the last playoff spot. Mian plays a crucial role in the squad and his involvement allows GM Saqib Dadaboy more freedom on the pitch and more options to execute. This team has an abundance of talent with the likes of Shaheen Limbada and Taqi Ahmed and we are the surprised to see the champions in their current state. Although they did well to not lose many games, they didn’t manage to win many either as they are set a record for the most draws in a season (5) with 1 game to play. That last game is against the first place Samarra and a 6th draw would be good enough to secure their spot in the final 4. A loss would give Hejaz traction to force a tiebreaker on goal differential which the blues have a barely comfortable lead with +7. If Jerusalem are able to hold on to their spot, they will likely see Samarra in the 2-legged semis and this week could be the beginning of a new strategy.
Samarra FC have taken over the league now sitting comfortably in first place after a revenging victory against former league leaders Sham. It has been well deserved with consistent play all season from every player and they proved they can be a force without their talisman Khizer Shahzad last week. Danish Khan is in top form scoring a couple goals and management would be thrilled to see him fill Khizer and Syed Murtaza’s void on the scoresheet. Zeem Khan has stepped up in time for the second season also contributing 2 goals to the winning cause. We’ve said it from the start that Ali Wadee has been the rough behind the shine and continues to work relentlessly to keep his team on the front foot in every match. The blacks have put the best offensive numbers in the league this season and their trio can go head to head with any other across the league including their 2 possible semi final matchups vs. Jerusalem or Anatolia. If Samarra hold on to their top spot they will see Jerusalem in their way to the finals and to guarantee that, they will have to take all 3 points them this weekend. We see Samarra as the favorites for the championship but GM Umer Jabbar knows they can’t be overconfident. We are interested to see how they will approach the last game of season in preparation for the inception of the playoffs.
Hejaz FC vs. Andalusia FC (8:45PM on Field 4)
Hejaz FC were defeated in a valiant effort against Anatolia where the team gave it their all. They played with great organization but fell short to the opponent’s brilliance and on another day, the team would have taken 3 points from their performance. Usman Aslam has taken a very important leadership role in the squad providing the solidity they need at the back and an impulse to push the forwards to keep the pressure on. One thing these guys are good at is taking their shots. They can certainly score from distance on any open look and its just a matter of how close the ball is to the target. GM Ibrahim Sardar provides a reliable option in goal and provides insights that Usman cannot predict. From where they stand now, the playoffs are still a possible idea. Hejaz are 3 points and 7 goals behind Jerusalem and the final playoff spot, but the interesting bit is that Hejaz play last place team Andalusia and Jerusalem play first place team Samarra. Andalusia has improved as of late and will be playing for their pride which won’t make it any easier for Hejaz, especially when they are relying on Samarra to beat Jerusalem by more than 3 goals. Nonetheless, it is possible. Hejaz will need their talisman A K to take the team’s performance to the next level if they want to keep their season alive
Sham FC vs. Anatolia FC (9:45PM on Field 3)
Sham FC missed their opportunity to lock up first place last week against the now first place Samarra. It was definitely one of the greatest matches this season with both teams going for the win and as a result, both teams have become stronger. Ahmed Alvi had a brilliant night scoring a hat-trick including 2 solo goals which is good news for the squad as it adds another option in front of goal. Sham have a diversity of options when it comes to player selection and it’s one of their unique strengths being able to play different strategies with the different qualities each player brings to the squad. GM Mohammed Shah is well aware of what his team can and cannot do and has surely learned from the previous encounter with Anatolia. With second place locked up, the tangerines still have first place to play for with only 2 points and 1 goal behind league leaders Samarra. If things stay the same, their matchup in the semis will be against Anatolia which Shah would surely want to avoid. Playing them just before the playoffs will give the team a feel on how to approach the matchup and definitely ready the defense and Omer Chaudhry for the second season.
Anatolia FC clinched their playoff spot last week with another convincing win while proving they can now control their goals against tallies. The canaries have looked a different team after the break and it seems they have put away the uncertainties and experiments to finally find the best form in franchise history. In fact, the club has won every game since Rizvan Merchant signed and Hasan Afzal transitioned to keeper. With their defender and goalkeeper situation solved, their offence is now very-capable of outscoring their opponents. Nehad Shihab is in top form defending from the back to scoring goals while Nasir continues to create chances with his intricate play. GM Zain Khilji was placed on the injured reserves list after suffering an ankle injury against Hejaz and will miss the last game of season with no timeline of return. Having played just 6 games this season, Zain was backed by Umair Sheikh who has excelled as a striker after his transition from goalie. With third place locked up and 2nd place just out of reach, Anatolia come into this last game with nothing to lose and only to gain momentum and form for the playoffs as they make their first convincing take on the championship. Their last game against Sham could be practice for a likely semifinal matchup between the 2 teams. Sham can help their chances at a better matchup with a win and a Samarian loss.