Date: Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Timing: 19:00 Local Time (GMT+4).
Venue: Al Ahli Stadium, Manama, Bahrain.
A young football club that was only founded in 1972, Hilal Al-Quds have only had 3 domestic honours to be proud of. Still far away from a knockout stage appearance, Hilal will at least be looking to get past Al-Jaish and enter the AFC Cup Group Stage, where they will face Lebanese giants Nejmeh, Riffa of Bahrain and Kuwait SC of Kuwait – if they beat Al-Jaish in Bahrain.
5 wins in 22 games – a diabolical return – was enough to keep Hilal in the West Bank Premier League, finishing 8th in 12-team league, 11 points off relegation. That wasn’t the highlight of their season by any means, after a penalty shootout win over Shabab Al-Thahiriya in the Palestine Cup Final saw them deny Shabab a place for the 2015 AFC Cup, and win the spot for themselves.
Now in a much better position, Hilal are only 5 points off the top spot (with a game in hand) in the WBPL albeit a 4-0 loss to fellow title challengers Markez Balata almost a fortnight ago.
Samir Issa currently manages Hilal and he is a bit of a journeyman in the WBPL; one of the most experienced and knowledgeable men across Palestinian Football. He has taken Hilal through a brilliant rebuilding process, which includes the superb scouting system that he possesses – his knowledge of players from inside and outside the Green Line. Issa is a front-runner for the Palestinian National team job, according to FutbolPalestine: http://www.footballpalestine.blogspot.ae/2015/02/five-managerial-candidates-pfa-should.html
Obediah Zbeidat: one of the signings of the famed ‘scouting system’ of Samir Issa, and he has been a hit. 8 goals in 14 games has seen him among the top scorers in the WBPL.
The name of Nadi Al-Jaish is one of the illustrious in Syrian club football, with a record 12 league titles in their vast trophy cabinet. Nadi Al-Jaish Al-Riyadhi (Army Sports Club) was founded in 1947 however its golden period began in the sixties and seventies when the Syrian national side was practically filled with players from the red shirts of Al-Jaish, from goalkeeper Faris Al-Sultanji, national legend Mousa Shamas to captain Avedis Kolakian.
Al-Jaish qualified for the AFC Cup by beating Masfat Baniyas 4-3 on penalties in the 2014 Syrian Cup, the club’s eighth cup win and the first for 10 years.
Because of the troubles in the country, the Syrian league has been divided into two groups, with Al-Jaish dominating Group A and city rivals Al-Wahda topping Group B. Al-Jaish are unbeaten in the Syrian league, with 10 wins and 25 goals after 14 rounds, seeing them seven points ahead of Al-Shorta.
Anas Makhlouf, a former player for Al-Majd of Syria and Rubin Kazan of Russia, is the current manager of high flying Al-Jaish. With previous stints among the Syrian senior and junior national teams, Anas is now looking to cement his status as an upcoming manager in Middle Eastern football at only 41 years old.
Abdullatif Silqini: the top scorer and star striker for Al-Jaish who predicts that he may “grab one of the two goals that he believes will take Al-Jaish to a victory over a very tough Hilal Al-Quds team”.