[written by: Bassam Basit, Humeid Khan, Riaz Murad & Hashim Ghazi]
Matchwweek 5 features another top-of-the-table matchup - something we feel like we say every week with the movement in the middle of the table - as Hejaz and Anatolia battle it out in the late night spot. But before that, we feature two matchups with a bit of history at 8:45. A rematch of the the last two finals is going down on Field 4 as Sham look to find their footing against their foes Samarra (who have been struggling to collect full points on Sundays as well), while former teammates Saqib Dadabhoy and Omar Sheikh face off in the battle of the BISL Blues. Here are your rumours for this week.
SHAM vs SAMARRA (8:45PM Field 4)
A rematch of the last two BISL Finals has a different scent to it this year, as the two teams who are usually fighting for top spot find themselves in a very different section of the table heading into MW5. Sham comes off a disappointing loss in a game where they seemed to hold possession and dominate for most of it. Two costly mistakes resulted in two goals and their struggling offense just could not keep up. Four weeks in the lack of rhythm on offense from Sham has been startling, considering the talent on the team, with the likes of Khizer Shahzad, Muhammad Shah and Ahmad Alvi. Excluding their five goal outburst a few weeks ago, Sham have only managed to score one goal in each of their three losses. GM Shah has rolled out four different starting lineups in hopes that one of those combinations will click and change the outlook of their entire season. For the upcoming match, the game plan for Sham seems to be simple: score. goals. Until they do that, they’ll be slipping further and further away from playoff contention. If you have watched Samarra all season, you’d be surprised to see them sitting in third place. They have looked fluid and comfortable on the pitch and many still consider them to be title favourites. Despite the strong performances, Samarra keeps finding itself ending the match in a stalemate. While undefeated, they are only 3 points ahead of their struggling opponents this week. A lot of this can be contributed to them missing their ace striker Jibran Sakrani in half their games thus far. If Samarra can turn some of these shootouts into wins, they will find themselves challenging Hejaz for the top spot on the table. This matchup seems tailor made for the Black Stars, who are second in the league in goals scored, thanks to their attacking trio of Aadhil Mohamed, Atif Mian and GM Junaid Akram. If they can score around their averages of 3.5 goals per game, it will be tough for Sham to keep up and challenge the defending champs.
JERUSALEM vs ANDALUSIA (8:45PM Field 3)
Another week, another possible opportunity for Jerusalem to turn things around as we reach the halfway point of the season. They were without GM Saqib Dadabhoy and keeper Yasser Zia against Anatolia, but only squandered the opportunity themselves to draw level with the last kick of the game. Defender and back up goalkeeper Nabeel Jabbar still put in a decent shift between the sticks. A little more stability at the back would ease the creative minds of Bassam Basit and Syed Murtaza Tirmizi to focus on their strong suits, creating and finishing chances, respectively. Substitute Ali Lone has been making an impact with his play between the lines, and though he is not eligible to play every week, he’s a welcome option at the disposal of the sky blues when needed. The two Omars of Andalusia will be a hefty task for the shaky Jerusalem defence with the lung-busting runs of Owais Ansari from deep another tactic in their arsenal. With Jibran Waqar turning heads in net and producing save after save against Samarra FC to earn his side a point, they look a formidable side on the rise. Andalusia have a super sub of their own in Saad K, but GM Omar Sheikh is confident his side can still win matches without his substitute engine being called upon. The key is who he elects to play the DM role for the Spaniards. We have seen a number of different players line up in the position for the side, but nobody (save for Saad) has locked down the position. The benefit for a team like the Royals is they have a bevy of options to choose from and expect them to try different combinations in the middle depending on the strengths (and weaknesses) of their opponents.
HEJAZ vs ANATOLIA (9:45PM Field 3)
Four teams have challenged Hejaz and four teams have been unable to beat the Whites - now that’s a headline GM Taqi Ahmed loves to see. After a hard-fought draw in MW3, the Hejazis managed to pull out a one goal win against an experienced team last week. While they have given up very few goals, they’ve failed to score a lot as well. One could say that they’ve taken the “score more goals than the other team” mantra to heart and have been able to just score enough goals to eke out wins in three of the four matches they’ve played. Matchweek 5 sees them square off against the second place Turks who are talented enough to score in bunches. The focal point for Hejaz will be the midfield engine duo of Farhan Butt and Nasir Rehman, who the rest of the league have failed to slow down. With a supporting cast of role players, Hejaz plan to stay on top at the end of MW5. Anatolia, coming off a gutsy win against the only winless team in the league, are one team that could knock off Hejaz from their perch at the top if they win this Sunday. They have the firepower to do that in GM Zain Khilji, who was scoreless in Week 4 (must be the mask he wore during the match), the magician Fawad Akram, and Shaheen Limbada, who showed why he’s one of the most formidable veterans in the league by smashing a wide angle shot for a fantastic goal last week. Komayl Jawadi remains sidelined for a second week in a row, so Nabil Muntazir may make another appearance this week. For the Canaries to beat Lilywhites this week, they’ll have to show better poise by scoring early and keeping a lead intact, as they have made things interesting over the last couple of weeks with their complacency. They were seen being observed last week by their upcoming opponents so they better up the ante this week. Will Anatolia solve the unsolvable Hejaz this week, as others have failed to do so, or will Hejaz remain masters of their own destiny at the half way mark of the season – find out in the later edition of BISL MW5!