Hejaz FC v Jerusalem FC - Finals Rumours

After a season that on paper showed the most parity the League has seen in its short history, it comes down to the matchup it seems to always come down to - Jerusalem FC vs Hejaz. Both sides faced their own challenges throughout the year and had their ups and downs, but after the regular season as seeds 1 and 2, they find themselves head-to-head for the third consecutive time. Let's break down this vaunted rivalry as we head into the season finale this Sunday.  

Hejaz FC vs. Jerusalem FC (8:30PM on Field 3)

Historic Head to Head: 3-1-2 for Hejaz FC
Previous Matchups: MW1 3 -1 for Jerusalem FC; MW6 6 - 3 for Hejaz FC
Playoff Matchups: 2-0 for Hejaz FC in last two finals
Playoff History: Hejaz FC 2014/15: Champions, 2015-16: Champions; Jerusalem FC 2014/15: Runners-up, 2015-16: Runners-up 
Season Record (Place): Hejaz FC 6-0-4 18 points (2nd); Jerusalem FC 7-2-1 22 points (1st)
GF/GA/GD: Hejaz FC 35/25/10; Jerusalem FC 37/21/16
Top Goalscorers: Hejaz FC - Junaid Akram (14); Jerusalem FC - Omar Sheikh (16)
Projected Starting VI:
          Hejaz FC - A. K; O. Adil, A. Ibn Rehana; M. Shah, F. Akram; J. Akram
          Jerusalem FC - U. Wasim; A. Mian, M. Variava; S. Limbada, S. Dadabhoy; O. Sheikh

Old foes. Despite there being a total of nine 'rookies' spread amongst both sides, the Zahid/Saqib/Shaheen trio faces off against the Shah/Sardar/AK trio. In case it hasn't already been made apparent, these two sides have a rivalry that dates back to season one. Hejaz were steamrolling sides and had their only defeat of the whole season at the hands of Jerusalem. Hejaz finished top of the table with Jerusalem not far behind in second. The two then met in the finals, where Hejaz went up to an early 3-0 lead before Jerusalem came storming back . It was too little, too late as Hejaz held on for a 4-3 victory that saw them dubbed as inaugural champs of the League. The following season, Hejaz went undefeated, taking a total of four points of six on Jerusalem - a season in which again Hejaz was top heading into the playoffs with Jerusalem in the 2 spot. They met again in the final, and this time it remained a very close game. Hejaz managed to hold onto a 2-1 lead to capture their second championship in a row, and finish the season undefeated.

This year, they find themselves 1-2 again, except this time, JFC held top spot. Hejaz, somehow, found themselves in surreal form to close out the season, moving from fifth spot to second in the final three weeks. Both teams travelled very different roads to get to this point, but that does not matter - what matters is that they're here. Heading into the matchup, the main things making news is who won't be suiting up this Sunday.

Once again, Hejaz's GM Ibrahim Sardar will be out of the lineup as he embarks on his annual Umrah trip (we wish him safe travels). Therefore, with Sardar out, it looks as is Los Blancos will be turning to either two-time Playoff MVP AK or newcomer Asif Ibn Rehana manning the gloves. Sources say the team is leaning towards AK in order to keep the formidable Hejaz starting five intact. With that being said, we will see if Hejaz make a change at halftime to maximize on AK's perennial second gear that comes out when the stakes are at their highest. ‎The Hejazis had another scare last week when superstar striker Junaid Akram was visibly limping during the match due to an ankle injury. However, all signs point to the young lad being 100 percent for the big match.

On the other side, Jerusalem have been bit by the injury bug at the worst possible time. GM Zahid Merchant had to give up his role as starting 'keeper due to a fractured wrist, but made himself more than useful as an energetic substitute performance that saw him net two goals (not a typo - that really happened). Umair Wasim filled in admirably between the sticks, as did Mohammed Variava in a late cameo that featured his self-proclaimed 'best save of the season' (on a goal that would not have counted anyways, but that's not important). However, Zahid is not the only injury concern the Sky Blues face. Furhan Azmat and Saqib Dadabhoy are due for late fitness tests as they nurse foot and ankle injuries, respectively. The potential loss of these players is even further magnified by the extended match length for the final - each half will be 35 minutes (instead of the standard 25), and thus, the need for fresh legs and depth (or lack thereof) will be paramount for success. We expect them both to suit up and be ready to make a difference in some capacity come kickoff.

Both teams possess solid backlines, dynamic midfielders and clinical forwards. Both play an open style that relies on his soccer IQ and movement. Both teams possess the type of individual talent that can change the impact of the game with a single move. Hejaz obviously holds the historic advantage over their counterparts, but Jerusalem come in with the best squad they've ever assembled. The problem is, Hejaz might have their best squad they've ever had to.

All that doesn't matter though - what matters now is the final seventy minutes. The teams will be pitted against each other like they have the past few years. One side will be hoping history repeats itself, while the other looks to finally change its course. Let's see how it plays out in this year's final kicking off at 8:30PM this Sunday.