[written by: Bassam Basit, Riaz Murad, Umair Ashraf & Hashim Ghazi]
With only four matches remaining in the regular season, there remains a lot to say about BISL Season 6. In a crucial six pointer, Jerusalem collected their first official win of the season against a lowly Sham side. Meanwhile, Samarra looked locked and loaded to start the new year on a tear with a drubbing of the short-handed Hejaz, and Anatolia relied on their superstar duo up front to snatch a point just before the final whistle of their matchup with league leaders Andalusia.
The results from last week see Sham drop to the bottom but still mathematically in play to make the playoffs (albeit the odds are heavily stacked against them). The marquee matchup of the week is between two sides who have looked all the part of champions all season in Andalusia and Hejaz. Meanwhile, Jerusalem looks to show that they are for real in 2020 but face a challenge in the red hot Samarrans.
Onto the rumours.
SHAM vs ANATOLIA (8:45PM Field 4)
When it rains, it pours. That statement is ringing frighteningly true for Sham FC and GM Muhammad Shah. After the 5-2 drubbing last week at the hands of fellow basement dwellers Jerusalem, the Oranje find themselves at the bottom of the table now, needing to win out the rest of their fixtures to even have a chance at making the playoffs. After giving up 10 goals in their last 2 games, both losses, Sham are desperate to stop to bleeding. What's worse is that they're unable to score many goals given the lack of firepower the team has. Shah has to get more production out of his squad that features players like Khizar Shahzad and Ahmad Alvi, who can create their own shots. Defensively, they have to play better in front of their keeper, Moiz Badar, who is seeing multiple shots coming his way. They need to be better at blocking shots or even preventing them from developing altogether. Speaking of shots, Anatolia fired 13 of them but only managed to score 2 goals. They were slow out of the gate and were quickly down 2-0 within the first few minutes. However, they were able to shut down their opponents from there on, with expert ball possession and precision passing, forcing Andalusia to play away from their run and gun style of play. Shorthanded for another week, the Canaries were able control play but unable to find the back of the net for most of the game until Fawad Akram netted one in the 2nd half. From them on, it was all pressure from the Turks as they pressed for the equalizer, finally succeeding in the final minute of the game when GM Zain Khilji took a precise long pass from Fawad to finish off the game and end his 3 game pointless streak. Anatolia go into MW8 with an eye in the rear-view mirror and finally have a full squad after what seems like a decade (you see what we did there?). They'll be looking to repeat their 7-goal performance from MW2 against a highly motiviated Sham team.
JERUSALEM vs SAMARRA (8:45PM Field 3)
Well, the time off and personnel change has certainly benefitted Jerusalem. They looked a completely different side against Sham last week, going from 2-2 at the break to 5-2 up (which ironically was the scoreline favouring Sham in the reverse fixture - talk about a poetic comeback). Returning player Nehad Shihab added some much-needed grit to their play, taking over the responsibility from the withdrawn-due-to-injury GM Saqib Dadabhoy. Their famed attacking firepower in Syed Murtaza Tirmizi and Bassam Basit were both on the money with a brace each, with the former also getting an assist and being the first player from their team to be featured as a Player of the Week in the League. The Sky Blues have two "wins" on the bounce now. However, their momentum will truly be put to the test when they face the undefeated Samarra this Sunday. Samarra seemed to have finally figured out how to translate their dominant performances into wins now, with an impressive 6 goals against Hejaz last week. The team's attack continues to be led by rookie sensation Aadhil Mohamed, but the inclusion of other attackers like Jibran Sakrani, Atif Mian and GM Junaid Akram into the mix reminded the League what this side is capable of. GM Akram finally got off the mend with his first pair of goals in the season after countless chances. If the forward-turned-midfielder has now found his shooting boots, it can only spell trouble for their remaining opponents. The last time these two sides faced each other, Samarra put up the highest goal tally on the season with eight. It was a thrashing thanks to a hattrick from Mohamad and a quality display by the rest of the side. Jerusalem definitely won't be looking for a repeat of that scoreline, and are ready to silence the Samarra attack with their new tactical plan.
HEJAZ vs ANDALUSIA (9:45PM Field 3)
The Hejazis and Andalusians were showing signs of the winter rust, with both teams feeling disappointed with the results of Matchweek 7. The Andalusians held an early lead but squandered it late to the Turks to settle for the draw. They remain on top of the table, but with Samarra putting the League on notice with their performance last week, the Spaniards are feeling the heat. GM Omar Sheikh persists to get production out of his team and continues to do his part. Salman Siddiqui and Asif Ali continue to pile on goals, while Ali Wadee and Owais Ansari hold down the fort at the back. Their co-MVP Jibran Waqar continues to put in incredible performances week after week. Andalusia will need to be at their best if they want the 3 points against a reeling but strong Hejazi team. On the other side of the pitch, the story is a little different. There is no appealing the verdict of last week’s game. It might be a one off, but GM Taqi Ahmed and his squad have some questions to answer. The solid fortress of Hejaz allowed 6 goals in one game, when they had allowed only 8 through their previous 6 games combined. However, there seems to be no panic in the Hejazi locker room, with team Captain Umair Sheikh regrouping his guys and focusing on getting the W. Much like last game, Hejaz may be without Hannan Ahmed, who picked up a knock on his knee early against Samarra and will be without star defender Farhan Butt as he serves his one game suspension. Hejaz will need their vets Nasir Rehman, Hussam Ayubi and the aforementioned Ahmed and Sheikh to be give their best performances to ensure they put up a fight with the league leaders. Will Andalusia be able to figure out the Hejazi defence? Can Hejaz regroup and go back to their winning ways? This match will be a playoff preview between two dynamic squads.