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Week 6 Rumours

After a long but relaxing holiday break, the second half of the BISL season begins this Sunday. The standings are tightly packed with a three way tie for second place, the league leader only ahead by a point and the 5th place team training by three points. Sham have a chance to get back in the playoff race against a struggling Andalusia while two rivalries are renewed with Hejaz-Jerusalem and Samarra-Anatolia. Matchweek 6 should be a dandy. 

Hejaz FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:45PM on Field 4)

Hejaz FC
Hejaz finally showed shades of their old selves the last few weeks thanks to some timely reinforcements. Hejaz looked done after losing their first three, and to make matters worse, they lost top-pick Faheem Kotwal to a season-ending injury. With three defeats to their name, an injured top-pick and superstar Muhammad Shah out of the lineup in Matchweek Four, the season was all but over a mere few weeks into the season for Los Blancos. However, replacement #1 Junaid Akram looked up to the challenge and made his presence much felt in his first week of play, scoring two decisive goals to give Hejaz their first win of the season. Junaid caught the eye of every observer at the dome that night, but what he said to his teammates after was even louder than his performance: if you think I’m alright, wait until you see my brother…he’s better. Hejaz faced league leaders Anatolia in the final match before the midseason break, welcoming back Shah into the mix and also debutant Fawad Akram replacing the injured Farhan Ahmad. Despite only having six dressed players, they came out roaring. Forty-one shots, seventeen on target. SEVENTEEN. Saying this team is a force to be reckoned with heading into week 6 is an understatement. They expect to welcome back a few missing pieces in Asif ibn Rehana and Omar Kayal this week as they hope to have a full squad. These guys are ready to turn their fortune around and get back to the winning ways of previous years. They face league leaders again this week in Jerusalem FC. These two faced off opening weekend in an affair dominated by the Sky Blues. But with the Akram brothers and the rest of Hejaz hitting stride, we really cannot be certain week one really gave us an idea of what to expect in the tie. Hejaz holds the head-to-head lead in this tie historically, and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top this week.

Jerusalem FC
Ah, Jerusalem. The team seemed to have started off on a high and worsened week over week until a devastating loss to Anatolia in Matchweek Four. The Sky Blues just cannot get a full squad to show up, forcing guys to play out of position and disrupt the team chemistry they were hoping to develop by now. For a team that has used a substitute in four weeks of five, and have been without top player Shaheen Limbada for the last three, they cannot really complain about having the slightest of margins atop the table heading into the second half of the season. Jerusalem looked to add another L to their record in MW5 after only having seven players dressed for the match. However, with Atif Mian dropping into defence and JFC developing a gameplan focused on playing deep and capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes, they looked to make the most of the situation. With some first-half heroics from GM Zahid Merchant and some gritty play up front, they managed to surprise even themselves with a 3-2 victory over Andalusia to give them sole possession of top spot. Jerusalem is excited to get back onto the pitch and all signs point to a nearly full squad this weekend against Hejaz – yes, you read that right…no substitute! Team management has imposed a travel ban on all players until the season is over in mid-March. Jerusalem and Hejaz carry a long and bitter rivalry with each other and expect this match to be no different. Though Hejaz have typically gotten the better of Jerusalem, Jerusalem looked far superior to them in week one. JFC also are the sole team to have beaten Hejaz twice in League history. Hejaz are showing more signs of life heading into the second half, but the Sky Blues look ready for the challenge.

Andalusia FC vs. Sham FC (8:45PM on Field 3)

Andalusia FC
Andalusia FC were once on top of the world and were talking about challenging for most points in a single season but those hopes perished after two consecutive losses in the final two weeks before the break. The blues couldn’t have asked for a worse way to end the first half, losing a 7-man squad but that just means that they have had 3 weeks to erase the memory. GM Junaid Mirza needed a trip to Disney world to raise his spirits after a few difficult weeks on the pitch. He is expected to be rejuvenated after visiting ‘the happiest place on earth’ and come back with a clear mind to stand between the pipes. Andalusia’s aggressive play caught many of their opponents by surprise at the beginning of the season but as the season has gone on, teams have been able to burn them on the counter attack. AFC will need to figure out a better balance in their formation otherwise they will continue to expose their back end (not literally). The squad will be hoping Karamat Jr. maintained a healthy diet over the break to continue his torrid run of goals from the first half. He has already tied the Andalusia record for most goals in a season with 5. Andalusia has had been fortune to have a full squad almost every week but rumour has them missing a few key pieces for their 2017 opener with the two Hassan’s being unavailable. Imad Siraj has been invisible on the scoresheet thus far and supporters continue to urge team management to give the former Pakistani international a chance at moving up front. The team has plenty of important decisions to make as they face pressure in the middle of the table.

Sham FC
Sham finished the first half on life support and come into the second half looking to turn their fortunes around. After a disappointing first few games, Sham had plenty of opportunities to gain points but their lack of cohesion has resulted in late goals or missed chances that could have delivered different results. After a morale building draw against Jerusalem, they held a lead against Hejaz which they lost and then had the lead twice versus Samarra, only to come away empty again. The next two games will almost determine the fate of the Orangemen as they need a full 3 points against the teams they are chasing for the final playoff spot. Sham GM Usman Aslam has been trying his best to get the squad on the same page, scheduling practice sessions and team meetings during the break. It has been the lack of offense that has let their team down but it isn’t for lack of talent. Zeem Khan, Athar Siddiqui and Mohammad Mahmood need to step up their game and find the chemistry needed to carry the offensive load for the team. Speedster Ahmad Alvi has been the only play maker on the squad which is where the problem lies. Someone else needs to give him support to open up space. Super keeper Yasser Zia has saved Sham already once this season and supporters will be hoping he can steal the show again this Sunday. Sham opens the second half against rivals Andalusia. Earning full points will be crucial for Sham’s playoff hopes.

Samarra FC vs. Anatolia FC (9:45PM on Field 4)

Samarra FC
Samarra FC have turned it all around just as we expected after a lackluster opening to the season. The blacks have won their last 3 games and are now in a position to top the table. Late signing, Khizer Shahzad aka Pink Gloves has been a constant threat in front of goal for his opponents playing the spearhead striker for Samarra. Numair Bari and Danish Khan pyramid behind him combining for 14 of the 15 Samarian goals this season. The remaining goal was scored by Umair Jabbar who wears a hair-band from his local women’s sports store. His band keeps his hair out of the way for his excellent performance on defense which has changed the way Samarra go forward except for the one own goal he has scored. GM Umer Jabbar finally decided to return from vacation and at a time where the team is on a high. He will be hoping he fit right in without affecting team chemistry. Umer will pair up with his brother on defense to protect Taha Iqbal’s goal from harm against a side that crossed the line 6 times in the previous fixture. Samarra will look to prove they are not the same team that played in the loss but better than their opponent.

Anatolia FC 
Anatolia FC forfeited their top spot last week after a loss to a revamped Hejaz and now sit in second, level with 2 other teams. While the side fell short last week, their bench continues to grow shorter as Kamil Lotia and Riaz Murad are away on personal leave. The club has lost Hasan Afzal for the season after the youngster has found the season difficult to manage with his school priorities. Anatolia will welcome back Hamza Waheed to take over for his cousin. The club does welcome back Nehad Shihab whose absence left a void in the heart of the Anatolian midfield. Zain Khilji and Taqi Ahmed backboned the squad last week and for much of this season, but their form will be uncertain as Zain forwent training for a club expensed vacation and Taqi vanished in preparation to tie the knot. Among those who are committed is ‘protégé’ Mohammed Salman who has shown the determination to become a top defender and Anatolia’s sweeper in front of goal. He will partner up with speedster Tahir Mirza who will make his debut on Sunday to protect his boastful buddy Umair Shiekh in goal. Anatolia lead the league in scoring and are keeping up with their opponents defensively and with half the season gone, consistency will be key in their race to the finals. Samarra stands in between them and 3 points this Sunday.

The second half of the season and Matchweek Six kicks off at 8:45 Sunday Night.