GAME ON THIS SUNDAY. Three matches remaining in the regular season and the standings are tighening up. Only two points separate 1st to 3rd with Andalusia playing Samarra this week. Anatolia have distanced themselves from relegation but Jerusalem and Hejaz fight for the right to chase the final playoff spot this week.
Here we go:
Jerusalem FC vs. Hejaz FC (8:45PM - Field 3)
Another six-pointer sits on the docket this week as Jerusalem and Hejaz take on in each in a match that will essentially eliminate the loser from playoff contention. Both teams sit on the fringes of the second-season, with Jerusalem having a one-point advantage of Hejaz.
Jerusalem has been a tough out for all their competitors, but their gritty performances have not translated to points on the board. With a starting five boasting high soccer IQ and versatility, it is clear to see why teams tend to struggle breaking them down. With a very respectable 20 goals against on the season, the team's discipline is its calling card and their reliance on a pair of brothers creating magic in the offensive end has led to where they stand right now. However, the only team that has managed to put four past Jerusalem this year is their opponent's this week. With that being said, the only team that Jerusalem have gotten a full three points against has been…you guessed it, their opponent's this week. JFC's only victory has resulted from the team adding more offense to their gameplan and putting five past their opponents. Expect the Sky Blues to approach this game in a similar way. Although having a compact defensive structure keeps you in any game, sometimes you've just gotta bang goals innit. Also, where is Saqib?
As mentioned, Hejaz put in a great performance the last time they faced Jerusalem but just fell short. The Lilywhites will need to put in an even better shift this week if they want to have any chance of making the playoffs. The team is not devoid of talent but just has not been able to string together the sorts of results they feel they deserve. In their last match, they got absolutely lambasted by the now-rolling Anatolia, and need to get back to their basics for this week's matchup. The side showed a new identity in weeks prior with convincing performances over the top teams in the League, but it all just went out the window a few weeks back. However, it's not like Hejaz didn't try to but the ball in the net. They outshot their opponent 22-15, but ran into a goalkeeper that was better than his best on that day. The Hejazis will hope that firepower translates into more goals this week against an opponent that is still trying to identify their best option between the sticks.
You can't help but bring up the past when discussing Jerusalem-Hejaz. A matchup that in the past was the biggest rivalry in the League now faces the prospect of these two storied franchises missing out on the playoffs. Jerusalem is the only team in BISL history to have never missed the postseason, and we are sure their rivals of old Hejaz would love to be the side that puts JFC's chances of making it even further out of reach.
Anatolia FC vs. Sham FC (8:45PM - Field 4)
Heading into matchweek 9 with three games to go, Anatolia are riding a hot streak and find themselves comfortably in a playoff spot. With three victories in the last four games, they have rebounded from an 0-4 start to climb up the standings. Their resurgence can be attributed to lineup changes and the emergence of Abdullah Akhtar as their striker. Abdullah was held scoreless during their losing streak but has racked up 6 goals in his last four matches. The formula is simple, if Abdullah scores, Anatolia wins. As expected, Junaid Akram has found his form and has been on a tear with 8 points in his last 3 matches. Zain Khilji and Junaid have figured out how to play alongside each other and have been racking up the points. Between Abdullah/Junaid/Zain, they have 32 points which is the most by any trio this year. This week they will test their metal against a top side in Sham.
Sham are coming off their first loss of the season at the hands of Andalusia. Sham struggled to find their offensive rhythm without superstar Fawad Akram as they were held scoreless. With the loss, Saif Syed suffered his first loss in BISL history after 18 matches. That is truly remarkable. Sham will be hoping he has to wait another 18 for #2. This week they will have to rebound against Anatolia having previously defeated Anatolia 4-1 in matchweek 4. Sham are unsure if they will have the services of Imad Siraj yet after he suffered a knee injury. Thankfully it is nothing serious as Imad will undergo standard protocol and will have to pass a fitness test before the match. Sham need full points after falling to second place with Andalusia trailing them by only one point if they are to keep their ranking before the playoffs.
Samarra FC vs. Andalusia FC (9:45PM - Field 3)
Andalusia FC is now in a position to overtake the league in the standings and claim the throne as early as this matchweek. Who would have predicted a situation like this after such a rough start to the season? The Spaniards look to push their win streak to 5 against current league leaders Samarra and if successful, will overtake them and the league if Sham draw or lose. It’s quite a story as their schedule kept putting the club through a series of increasing tests after a 3-0 breakdown against Samarra in matchweek 4. Level 1 Hejaz (Won 3-2), Level 2 Jerusalem (Won 3-2), Level 3 Anatolia (Won 4-3), Level 4 Sham (Won 2-0), and now they face the last test against Samarra for revenge and proof they are the best team this season. The squad inhabits a familiar core of players that have obtained gold in the past and their discovered chemistry provides stability on all fronts. However, if you take away 1 player, the compound becomes unstable. We feel the utility players in Owais Ansari and Raza Zahur seal up any weaknesses the club may hold and are crucial to the way the team has been playing. After a clean sheet last week against a blunt Sham last match, we may have a show stopper on our hands.
Samarra seems to be back in form after a dip in midseason and will look to lock up their spot as #1 going into the playoffs. Last match it was one-way traffic with Samarra invading opponent territory as they pleased having played a very imposing style of football. Although they won the match with ease, it wasn’t a very clinical performance from the team as they converted only 2 of the storm of chances that were created. It seemed they were too relaxed when it came to the final ball or finishing touch, but it will be much different this week. Their position is on stake and their defense must play a less risky and pressing game. Umer Jabbar has been quietly brilliant for the blacks this season with his deceivingly quick decisions and distributions. Shahrayar Khan however, is the backbone of their defenses and will be important to a victory if it falls to them. Jibran Sakrani has got to get on the scoresheet as Danish Khan will have his hands full in the midfield this week. This will be a topper match as the season is coming to a close.