[written by: Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad, Umair Ashraf and Hashim Ghazi]
Three weeks in the books, and we find one team pointless and another undefeated. Hejaz and Jerusalem were old foes in the early stages of the League, and after both missing out on the playoffs last year, they find themselves at opposite ends of the table (Hejaz first, Jerusalem last) at the early stages of this campaign. Meanwhile, after a huge win against Anatolia last week, Andalusia look to show they have the class to beat the best of them with a matchup against Samarra this week. Sham finally found themselves on the right side of a result but face a tough task against leage leaders Hejaz, while Anatolia's biggest opponent has been the bad luck they've faced on the injury front, yet hope to regain some momentum (and fitness) against a Jerusalem side we have yet to see the best of.
After some injury news last week, we have a transaction to report:
- Shah Yar has been selected by Anatolia FC as the full-time replacement for Altamash Khan. Shah has suited up for the Turks as a substitute this year and we welcome him officially to the League. We also wish Altamash a speedy recovery.
- With Shah Yar joining Anatolia as a first-team player, his substitute role has been filled by Nabil Muntazir. Nabil will now serve as Anatolia's substitute for the rest of the season and we are happy to welcome him back after a solid individual campaign with Jerusalem FC last year.
Both players will be available for selection this Sunday. Now, here are your rumours heading into Matchweek 4.
SHAM vs HEJAZ (8:45PM Field 4)
For the first time this season, the entire Sham team was laced up and ready to play, and the early season optimism looked to materialize. Their last game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, they looked shaky and nervous as the starting six had never played together, but after a critical half time talk they came out firing on all cylinders where they scored five goals unanswered in quick succession. GM Muhammad Shah, not ready to let the team fall to the bottom of the table, scored a remarkable hat-trick, with the help of Khizer Shahzad who assisted on two of those goals. However, this upcoming game will require a quick and sudden change in gears because they will be facing Hejaz who are sitting on top of the table right now like its 2015 all over again. The second season spell of GM Taqi Ahmed is looking Mourinho-esque, and they're playing like it too. They've only given up three goals in three games and getting through the likes Hussam Ayubi and Nasir Rehman only to find Umair Sheikh waiting between the sticks has had several offenses scratching their heads - just ask Samarra who had scored eleven goals in two games prior only to walk away with one against Hejaz's stellar defense. While they have conceded the least amount of goals, they have also scored the least. Taqi will need to figure out a way to get the offense rolling, along with promising striker Hannan Ahmed; otherwise every game this season will require their defense to be at its best. If their defense can remain steady and their offense starts rolling, that undefeated streak could see itself continuing.
ANDALUSIA vs SAMARRA (8:45PM Field 3)
Both Samarra and Andalusia showed why they are near the top of the table last week. The men in black put in a solid effort but will feel disappointed they didn’t get the three points against their undermanned opponent. Rookie sensation Aadil Mohamed left his marker in the dust and had the game on his foot, but an incredible save from the veteran Umair Sheikh kept the game tied and left the Samarrans off pace for top spot in the L. Playing as a full unit, GM Junaid Akram and Captain Atif Mian got a glimpse of the powerhouse potential their group has, and once the Jibran-Aadil-Junaid trio starts clicking, defences around the league will be put on notice. Insider sources tell us that both goal-sccorer Jibran Sakrani and defender Salman Ahmad will be away this weekend as they continue to search for the best banquet hall biryani in the GTA. On the other side of the pitch, the Andalusians put in a gritty effort last week to come away with the W against a solid Anatolian squad. GM Omar Sheikh had his men play some inspiring football and put in a gutsy performance. Salman Siddiqui channeled his inner Robert Lewandowski and potted a brace and Omar El Askalany showed glimpses of the all-star talent he has with a pair of assists. “Rookie” goaltender Jibran Waqar continues to turn heads with his incredible play in net. This week it will be a battle of the offences; both teams have enough firepower to turn any game into a blowout. It remains to be seen which veteran defensive unit will hold its ground and slow down the other. Will Andalusia be able to take advantage of a shorthanded Samarra squad, or will the Samarrans play with the same fluidity like they did when they were undermanned like last time? It will be a grind it out type game and one that will be a treat to watch!
JERUSALEM vs ANATOLIA (9:45PM Field 3)
The season seems to be slipping away from GM Saqib Dadabhoy after another drubbing in Matchweek 3 against Sham. They played well in the first half and took a 1-0 lead into the second half where it all broke down for them. The sky blues now are the only winless team remaining in the league. They’ll need every single player to fire on all cylinders to get their first win of the season in MW4. Murtaza Tirmizi was held scoreless in the last game. So, for Jerusalem to get anything going, they’ll need to get the ball to Tirmizi to do his magic. And it all starts with the defense, where Saqib needs to build his strategy from. Being -10 on goal differentials is significant, but that will only matter for seeding for the playoffs. Right now, it starts from getting them their first win against a talented Anatolia team. The canaries themselves are coming off a disappointing loss where they literally let one slip. Missing two players, GM Zain Khilji being one of them, and with star defenseman Altamash Khan out for the season, the Turks played pretty well. For a team that has looked like one of the top teams on paper this season, the injury bug has really affected them. The yellow submarine will be pleased to have sub Shah Yar join the side on a full-time basis as Altamash's replacement. However, there may be a new injury scare, as Komayl Jawadi went down with a knee injury in Week 3 that saw him unable to continue on the pitch for the majority of the second half. We wish Komayl a speedy recovery and remain hopeful his season is not yet done. He’s day to day, and will be re-evaluated before the game on Sunday. With Khilji back in the fold this week, helped by star playmaker Fawad Akram and a veteran supporting cast of Shaheen Lambada and Zahid Merchant, the Anatolians will need to impose their will against Jerusalem and keep them winless. When firing on all cylinders, these Turks are unstoppable!