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Week 5 Rumours

Two teams sit far above the competition and we finally see them face off this Sunday for first place. Meanwhile, the playoff race heats up with the remaining four teams playing each other. Here is how the matchups stack up.  
 
Taher Mirza of Andalusia FC has withdrawn as a substitue due to an injury, and Andalusia FC have elected to pick up Bassam Basit as his replacement after he clears waivers.  We wish Taher a speedy recovery insha'Allah and welcome Bassam to the League. Now, onto the matchups.
 
Sham FC vs. Samarra FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
 
After waiting five weeks, we finally get a rematch of the Finals from last year in Sham vs Samarra. Both teams sit atop the table sporting 4-0 records, and though a draw would not be a bad result for either side, the GMs would are determined to get the full three points. Last year's final featured Sham coming in as favourites as Samarra was missing League MVP Danish Khan. However, in an organized effort, the Redblacks went ahead 2-0 and kept a lethal Sham attack at bay to collect the franchise's first championship. 
 
The scary thing is that this Samarra side may even be better than last year. We've spent the season thus far lauding their attack, but as we all know, it takes ten guys to win a championship. The Samarra defense has been impenetrable, with the likes of Shaharyar Khan, Umair Ashraf, Umer Jabbar and Sheraz Choudhry defending well as a unit and driving the ball forward to complement the attack. Nobody who is out there as part of the backline, the pairing know that they are at their best being aggressive and breaking up play. They also are not afraid to join the attack, as we've often seen them rush down the wing to get a cross into the box. A lot of credit to the defense goes to goalkeeper Hassan Syed, who doubles as the team's sweeper. Syed's ability to come out and maintain possession allows the backline to maintain a higher line to force counters and keep the offense humming. Samarra have won the last two matchups vs Sham, and cannot wait to take on Muhammad "5 Star Skills" Shah and the orangemen again this Sunday. 
 
Sham too have a lot of unsung heroes that have been instrumental in the side. Newcomers Atif Khan and Mustafa Tirmizi have made their presence felt for the Orange. Atif has been in a more advanced position, but the team recognizes his determination to track back as instrumental to how they play. Mustafa has done very well in defence with his ability to close mark his opponents to keep them at bay. The team as a whole has a lot of firepower, but GM Muhammad Shah credits the newcomers as being a key to their success thus far.  The front three will continue to score, but when your entire team is clicking and understand their roles, they are hard to stop. Veteran Imad Siraj has looked better than season's past, and perhaps it's the partnership with Shah that brought so much success in the League's inaugural season that may reignite his play to his glory days. Also, not enough has been said about goalkeeper Basil Jeelany providing a steady presence in goal. Though his defence has done a great job in limiting the shots on target, he has more been a rock when called upon. We don't anticipate him having an easy day at the office this Sunday though. 
 
Two teams that have yet to take an L face off on Sunday, with bragging rights on the line. A relatively-new rivalry adds another chapter to its books then, with the outcome tough to predict - what we do know though is that we're in for one heck of a match. 
 
Andalusia FC vs. Hejaz FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
 
Andalusia and Hejaz come into their matchup through the same highway. Both teams have had impressive victories and some embarrassing losses. The one thing in common, both their wins have come against dwellers Anatolia. 
Hejaz have made some adjustments as the season has progressed. Riaz Murad has been handed the gloves to safeguard the net while Nabeel Jabbar has been set free to roam on defense. The engine of the team Nasir Rahman is asked to carry the workload every week and this week will be no different. Hejaz sit in 5th place, one point behind Andalusia. The points this Sunday could be crucial at the end of the season. GM Taqi Ahmed's squad will need to build off their high scoring last week but solidify the back to come away with points. The squad will need to find more balance in their attack with teams pressuring Nasir and Murtaza on the ball. Asif Ali and Zeem Khan will need to contributre on the stat sheet to give opponents someone else to worry about. 


Andalusia on the other hand really don't know what to do and who they have available. They have been undermanned every week thus far with injuries and vacations, in fact Andalusia's sub has also been hurt and unable to play the last 3 games which has led them to find a replacement with Bassam Basit. The only week they have had 9 players was the opening week of the season. This Sunday they are expected to be without Shaheen Limbada and Atif Mian to make matters worse. With a replacement sub and a new formation, Andalusia will need to find a winning formula quickly otherwise they could find themselves outside the playoffs. This team has plenty of depth but depth doesn't win you championships. Your star players need to perform like star players and carry the offensive load while the depth players keep the momenum. If Andalusia are to become a force, they will need Omar Sheikh, Shaheen Limbada and Atif Mian to be difference-makers with the rest holding down the fort. 

 
Anatolia FC vs. Jerusalem FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
 
Jerusalem FC took home a massive win against Hejaz to claim their playoff spot and now have a great opportunity to hold on to it with a matchup against a winless Anatolia. The Ali bros are starting to gain traction and will be vital for the blues in front of goal this week and every week. They combined for 7 points in their last match and will be looking to continue their hot streak. Interestingly, Arshad Chawdhry gave it a try in net for the first half and pulled off 10 saves followed by a second half performance from Ismail Akhtar who came in as a closer to see through a 5-4 win. We are not sure what is going on with the goalkeeper situation but they may finally pick one after Saqib Dadabhoy returns from personal leave. With their defensive leader unavailable last week, Jerusalem concede 4 for the first time this season. Nonetheless, management must be happy with the priceless victory last week and their current position in the standings. 

The good news for Anatolia is that they have nothing to lose.... We didn’t expect the club to lose their opening 4 games and there is no reason to believe they host an inferior squad. Somehow, they manage to concede leniently and thanks to the help of Abdullah Akhtar, have hit the post more times than their season goal tally. Last week they looked very sharp against Sham, particularly Junaid Akram, but were not able to cut all the way through the Sham defense despite creating many big chances in front of goal.  The squad is definitely technically sound, but lack the concentration to make that crucial interception or that killer finish. They will need to fight for each other in order to make a last dash for the playoffs. If they lose this time around, it may be too late to come back. One thing is for sure, Nehad Shihab will be glad his transfer came before the so far, horrific season. Anatolia always keeps things interesting.