The standings are as tight as ever heading into a crucial Matchweek 7. Top sides have shown chinks in their armour, while the bottom sides have rallied their troops right when it matters most. Which of the top sides will get back to their winning ways, and which of the teams outside the playoffs looking in, will stake their claim at yet another upset? Let’s see what’s going down in this week’s rumours.
Andalusia FC vs. Anatolia FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
Given the recent form of both of these sides, we would not expect this being a 3 vs 4 matchup in the standings, but after both the blues and canaries collected 6 of 6 points in the new year, the match has more implications that anticipated.
Andalusia again went down early against Jerusalem, and were trailing 2-1 in the last 7 minutes of the match. A huge goal by rookie Salman Siddiqui followed by the go-ahead goal on the counter by GM Omar Sheikh led to the Spaniards picking up three points and sitting comfortable in third place for another week. The squad have been missing first round pick Atif Mian the last few weeks as he nurses a hamstring injury, but welcomed back Shaheen Limbada that allowed them to play more to their strengths. Rookies Owais Ansari, Raza Zahur and Salman Siddiqui have been asked to play multiple roles for the side week-over-week, and arguably had their best individual performances this season in last week’s display. The team could use some more firepower as Omar Sheikh has clearly been the only man capable of putting the ball in the back of the net consistently for the side. Andalusia hope to get a result similar to their last matchup against the Turks, where they won 4-1 and featured four different goal scorers.
Anatolia are riding high in 2019, rerouting their sinking ship into one that is primed to wreak havoc for their opponents for the rest of the season. A major change has been Junaid Akram playing a deeper role for the side, which has allowed Zain Khilji a freer role to play between the lines as a number ten. Akram still found his way onto the score sheet and directly contributed to all three goals for the side in their win last week. Also, Umair Sheikh was at his best in the last matchup. Sheikh is no stranger to a bevy of shot attempts, but always holds his own and keeps his side in matches. Though the common viewer would see that he may be subject to a giveaway or two a match, when your team relies so heavily on your superhuman shot-stopping ability, you will turn a blind eye to the sporadic gaffes. Hussam Ayubi and Hasan Afzal are building a strong partnership at the back for the Canaries, and their complimentary play allows both defenders to play at their strengths individually for the betterment of the team. Anatolia look to continue trending upward, and if they muster up another performance that garners three points, they will find themselves a point out of 3rd – a thought deemed inconceivable only a month ago.
Samarra FC vs. Hejaz FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
The first matchup of Matchweek 7 features two teams that were on opposite ends of surprise results last week. Samarra fell to Anatolia 3-2 despite scoring a would-be equalizer that was overturned by the referee. On the other hand, Hejaz showed resilience in getting a crucial point against league leaders Sham in a 1-1 draw.
Samarra have lost two in a row after looking so dominant for the first four weeks of the season. What is surprising though is that the losses came against the top and bottom seed of the League. Samarra should not be too concerned though. Giving up only one goal is usually something worth applauding in BISL, but the fact that Sham held them scoreless in the top-of-the-table clash led to them losing out on three points. The match against Anatolia had a different story, as a short bench caused the defence to stretch too thin. It also forced top goalkeeper Hassan Syed to take up a position in the backline with a substitute manning the gloves. A lack of cohesion was apparent amongst the side, but again, they were one controversy away from scrounging up a point in a game that they looked out of for the most part. The Redblacks hope to have the absences behind them in their matchup against Hejaz this weekend, where they managed to put up a sparkling 7 goals against the side in their matchup earlier this year.
Hejaz sit at the bottom of the table two points out from the final playoff spot. The team defended impressively, holding the league leaders to only one goal. Nasir Rehman and Murtaza Tirmizi continue to lead the charge for the Lilywhites, with timely contributions coming from others in the side. Welcoming back Ali Wadee into the defence provided some much needed stability at the back and strengthens the side considerably. After the Superbowl break, Hejaz have crucial matches against Anatolia and Jerusalem that will dictate whether they will be playing in the second season or not. After a tight affair against Andalusia a couple weeks back and the display last week against Sham, Hejaz appear to be trending upward at the right time and looking toward being spoilers again this week.
Sham FC vs. Jerusalem FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
Sham and Jerusalem face off in the nightcap, with both sides looking to avenge results that left holes in their pockets last week.
Sham dropped their first points of the season against cellar-dwellers Hejaz last week, which you can’t help but correlate to their season last year. At this time last year, Sham had their worst form of the season and dropped some winnable matches against organized and composed sides. Is this déjà vu? We don’t think so, as any team that is missing their top defensive pairing is bound to be a bit out of sorts. Playing without their defensive pairing and arguably the best duo in the League this year, you think that conceding a single goal and mustering up a point is actually not a bad result. The team only had seven players dressed, and tired legs surely played a role in the performance as well. We cannot recall a time when offensive savant Fawad Akram only had a pair of shots – heck, we can’t remember a time he did not find himself on the scoresheet. So, it’s fair to say that the League leaders are doing just fine and will look to bounce back in a fixture that saw them put 16 shots on target the last time they faced JFC.
Speaking of JFC and absences, where is GM Saqib Dadabhoy? While the IG stories in Pakistan and Oman have been *fire emojis*, the side would love to have him back in sky blue sooner than later. Jerusalem have dealt with squad issues and absences relatively well this season, particularly with the goalkeeper position. The question is who will be their first-choice? Rumour has it that GM Dadabhoy will likely step in for the side, but Ismail Akhter’s performances with the gloves on surely cannot be ignored. He has been absolutely fearless and has commanded the box like he’s been playing the position all his life. Also, so much time is spent talking about other superstar players in the league, but we think there is another name to add to the list – Azan Ali. Azan has been a lethal finisher for the Palestinians, and played a part in two “goal of the year” candidates against Andalusia last week, one of which featured Azan dancing around two defenders and the keeper with precise control before feeding the ball to Kamil Lotia for a tap-in. He practically traced the outstretched body of the ‘keeper on both goals, which left his opponents in disbelief. His partnership with older brother Ali Raza is for real, and his presence as a talisman grows week over week. JFC are in dire need of favourable results sitting at the doorstep of the playoffs – and look to take a leap forward this week with an upset against the League leaders.