Semi-Finals Leg #1 Rumours

This season, the league was as open as it’s ever been. Four different sides held pole position throughout the year, with mid-season table toppers Jerusalem coming back on top to be crowned top seed heading into the playoffs. However, with this level of parity, seeding means nothing. Anybody can beat anyone, and when you factor in that this is the first time the League will feature a two-leg semi-final, there are sure to be some surprises. The road to this year’s championship starts here – the first leg of the semi-finals.

Hejaz FC vs. Andalusia FC : First Leg (8:45PM on Field 3)

Historic Head to Head: 2-2-2 Even
Previous Matchups: MW2 4 -0 for Andalusia FC; MW7 1 - 0 for Andalusia FC
Playoff Matchups: None
Playoff History: Andalusia FC 2014/15: DNQ, 2015/16: DNQ; Hejaz FC 2014/15: Champions, 2015-16: Champions
Season Record (Place): Andalusia FC 5-1-4 16 points (3rd); Hejaz FC 6-0-4 18 points (2nd)
GF/GA/GD: Andalusia FC 24/18/6; Hejaz FC 35/25/10
Top Goalscorers: Andalusia FC - Ali Chaudhry (6); Hejaz FC - Junaid Akram (12)
Projected Starting VI:
     Andalusia FC - J. Mirza; H. Chaudhry, Z. Khan; S. Khan, H. Chaudhary; A. Chaudhry
     Hejaz FC - I. Sardar; O. Adil, A. Ibn Rehana; M. Shah, F. Akram; J. Akram

In the first matchup, we see the team that’s never played in the playoffs against the team that’s never lost in them. Both these teams had very different paths that led them to the postseason, yet find themselves facing off in a matchup that features a free-flowing, trigger-happy offense against an organized and stout defense. Hejaz started off the season in shambles, losing their first three matches and looking like the complete opposite of what we’re used to seeing from Los Blancos. Andalusia was also the complete opposite than what we’re used to seeing from them…in a good way. The blues were storming through matches collecting win after win with a disciplined tactics and ruthless chance conversion. However, the second half of the season saw Hejaz go on a tear while Andalusia had some rough patches due to key players either injured or missing. The result leads to a 2 v 3 matchup few would’ve ever predicted. Andalusia have to be confident going into the tie, having won both matchups with Hejaz this season. However, the final matchup between both sides led to a major injury to defender Zain Khan that forced him out for the remainder of the regular season. Both he and Shay Khan face fitness tests prior to this weekend, and GM Junaid Mirza hopes they can contribute in some capacity, even if they’re not 100 percent. On the other side, Hejaz’s offense continues to build chemistry, with a front three that may even be better than the front three featured by the side in last year’s undefeated season as champions. Factor in the defensive foundation of rookies Omar Adil and Asif Ibn Rehana, plus the always perenially underrated keeper GM Ibrahim Sardar, and these guys have the tools to three peat. However, Andalusia clearly having a gameplan that has worked against Hejaz during the season, they remain the favourites going into the tie. It will be contrasting styles facing off with both sides trying to have the advantage heading into the second leg. If Andalusia can get another top result against Hejaz and give another week for the Khans to get back to full fitness, watch out.

Jerusalem FC vs. Anatolia FC : First Leg (9:45PM on Field 3)

Historic Head to Head: 4-1-1 for Jerusalem FC
Previous Matchups: MW4 7 -2 for Anatolia FC; MW9 3 - 1 for Jerusalem FC
Playoff Matchups: 2014/15 Semis 1-1 (JFC on penalties)
Playoff History: Anatolia FC 2014/15: Semis, 2015/16: DNQ; Jerusalem FC 2014/15: Runners-up, 2015-16: Runners-up
Season Record (Place): Anatolia FC 5-0-5 (4th); Jerusalem FC 7-1-2 (1st)
GF/GA/GD: Anatolia FC 34/29/5; Jerusalem FC 37/21/16
Top Goalscorers: Anatolia FC - Zain Khilji (17); Jerusalem FC - Omar Sheikh (14)
Projected Starting VI:
     Anatolia FC - U. Sheikh; M. Salman, T. Mirza; T. Ahmed, N. Shihab; Z. Khiilji
     Jerusalem FC - Z.Merchant; A.Mian, M. Variava; S. Limbada, U. Wasim; S. Dadabhoy

The two top offences in the league take on each other in BISL’s first ever two-leg semi-final, and it has the makings of a classic. These two teams have quite the history. From the 1-1 draw in the semis a few years ago that went on to penalties, where Shaheen Limbada put the side through on a clutch penalty, to the personal rivalry between Taqi Ahmed and the entire sky blues side after some choice words exchanged following the last time the teams faced off – this matchup will live up to the hype. After the Canaries drubbed Jerusalem 7-2 in their first meeting this season on the back of a dominating performance by Nehad Shihab, Jerusalem looked like they were in trouble. However, in the follow-up fixture only a few weeks ago, Jerusalem looked the better team and despite a close scoreline, felt like they deserved the win. Following the matchup, Taqi reached out to Jerusalem GM Zahid Merchant letting him know that he expects more from a team than what JFC put in that night, and come playoffs, Taqi will show them how a real team plays. Both teams wanted this matchup – JFC so they can exorcise the demons of their worst loss in BISL history, and AFC so they can prove that they have what it takes to take down the top-ranked sides. Also, of note in this matchup will not only be who is playing, but who isn’t. JFC’s top scoring threat Omar Sheikh is out for the semi finals after making a career move that took him to the west coast; he unlikely will not be suiting up unless his team makes it to the finals. Likewise, GM Zain Khilji is missing the second leg for travel commitments as well and thus will need to play his heart out and give his team a big margin heading into a Khilji-less second leg. This matchup promises to be open, high-scoring and full of theatrics.

The first leg of the semis kicks off this Sunday, where we’ll see if Andalusia and Anatolia can put a dent in the chance of seeing a Jerusalem-Hejaz final for the third year running. It all starts at 8:45PM. LET’S GO.