NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 27 – Seven fixtures have been lined up for Wednesday evening as the Kenyan Premier League 2018/2019 transitional season enters its home stretch.
Champions Gor Mahia will play one of their three catch up fixtures against Zoo Kericho in the Rift Valley while AFC Leopards will be home away from home when they take on Vihiga United at the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega.
Leaders Sofapaka play at home against Mount Kenya United with early pace setters Bandari looking to bounce back to winning ways when they host Kakamega Homeboyz in Mombasa. Tusker host Kariobangi Sharks in a mouth-watering tie at Ruaraka while KCB hosts Western Stima in Machakos.
Gor, with a three-game deficit can move top of the table with victory against Zoo if both Sofapaka and Bandari fail to win. Hassan Oktay’s men are looking to defend the title but the tactician has admitted it will be a treacherous ride to achieve that target.
“It will be very tough for us because we are in the running for three competitions, all very tough. We need to take a game at a time and manage the squad very well. We go to Kericho on Wednesday then after that we go to Kisumu. It’s tough,” the tactician stated.
Oktay’s Gor are third with 32 points, just one behind Sofapaka and Bandari and they come up against a side placed 16th in the standings.
Odds are hugely stacked in Gor’s favor as in five meetings, they have only dropped points to Zoo once, in a 1-1 draw in Kerichop on November 5, 2017. The last three times these two sides have met, K’Ogalo has scored four goals in each game.
Zoo have only won once in their last five games and will be looking to upset the odds and boost their hopes of survival. Nicholas Kipkurui will be facing his former side for the first time since leaving for K’Ogalo at the end of last season.
At the Bukhungu Stadium, AFC Leopards will be looking to keep their renewed spirit running. The 2-1 come from behind victory over Western Stima last weekend hoisted them off the bottom two to 13th with 19 points and another victory will pull them further up the standings.
“I was really pleased with the performance the players put up against Stima. It showed that we have grown in mentality and the players are fighting hard. AFC Leopards is a good team and we should not be where we are in the table,” head coach Cassa Mbungo noted.
“We must keep working hard to improve and work on the small details especially when we lose the ball. I expect a tough game against Vihiga but if we play the way we have been of late, then we will get victory,” he added.
The two lie side by side in the standings with Vihiga a point below. The two sides have met only thrice in top flight, two of the games ending in draws while only one was a victory for Leopards in the first leg of last season.
Meanwhile, Sofapaka will be looking to keep their place on top of the table when they come up against their former boss Melis Medo and his Mount Kenya United side. Medo coached Sofapaka briefly for two months before he left to re-join Mount Kenya.
The two met in the first match of the season, with Medo in charge of Sofapaka, Batoto ba Mungu winning 2-1.
Sofapaka have been in good form since the American’s departure to rise to the top of the standings, but should be wary of their momentum being slowed down by the international break.
Three wins on the trot by John Baraza’s charges saw Sofapaka climb top, but they were beaten on penalties by fourth tier side Bungoma Super Stars in the Football Kenya Federation Shield to dent their run.
But, with Baraza knowing the KPL title is all they have to fight for will be going all out against Mount Kenya to retain their hold on top spot.
Medo’s men have lost four of their last five games and sit bottom of the standings with 12 points. The American tactician who helped the side avoid relegation last season will have a point to prove to Sofapaka and if motivation is anything, this will be one match he wants to win at all costs.
Elsewhere, Bandari will be eyeing revenge when they play Homeboyz in Mombasa, the Kakamega based men having beaten them 4-0 when they last met in Kakamega.
History favors Bandari as Homeboyz have never won in Mombasa, the best result being one draw, a 0-0 result in 2017.
Bandari are winless in their last four games having lost two and drawn a similar number. Head coach Bernard Mwalala will be looking to bring the rocky boat back to safe waters and he says his side is focused on three points at home.
At the Ruaraka Complex in Nairobi, struggling Tusker who have gone flat with four losses and a draw in their last five games will welcome fifth placed Kariobangi Sharks with head coach Robert Matano looking to keep his title hopes afloat.
The alemen are looking to delete some forgettable history against Sharks as they have never beaten them in four league meetings. Their last encounter in the second leg of last season ended up in a 5-2 victory for Sharks.
KPL Midweek fixtures (Kick off 3pm unless stated):
Sofapaka v Mount Kenya United (2pm), KCB v Western Stima (4pm – Machakos), Zoo Kericho V Gor Mahia (Kericho), AFC Leopards v Vihiga United (Kakamega), Ulinzi Stars v Sony Sugar (Afraha), Tusker FC v Kariobangi Sharks (Ruaraka), Bandari v Kakamega Homeboyz (Mombasa)
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