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Upbeat Stars ready to exorcise Bissau ghosts

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Harambee Stars new call up Jockins Atudo (right) while training on Saturday, March 26 at Nyayo National Stadium.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

Harambee Stars new call up Jockins Atudo (right) while training on Saturday, March 26 at Nyayo National Stadium.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

NAIROBI, March 26 – Sitting bottom of Group E with only a single point in three matches, Harambee Stars will be out to re-ignite their minimal chances of getting their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations campaign on track when they host a motivated Guinea Bissau in Sunday’s return-leg at the Nyayo National Stadium.

While coach Stanley Okumbi and his charges acknowledge a chance to fight for the lone ticket to Gabon is a far-fetched reality, they have vowed to give a fighting spirit at least to wipe the tears off their fans’ faces after the midweek horror that saw the former Mathare United head coach begin his life at Stars with a 1-0 defeat to Guinea Bissau.

“We know our chances to qualify for AFCON have reduced but we want to go out there and fight. We want to play good football tomorrow and win the match. We had some slight lapse in Bissau but we are determined to put up a better show now that we are playing at home.”

“Definitely there will be changes in the team. There are some areas which did not work and we would want to improve on them,” Okumbi said after conducting the final training on Saturday.

The tactician has bolstered his squad by calling up AFC Leopards goalkeeper Lucas Indeche, Posta Rangers centre-half Jockins Atudo and Greece based winger Paul Were as he seeks to better the poor display in Bissau.

Were was unable to play in the first-leg due to passport issues while Atudo comes in to replace defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino, who is suspended after accumulating two successive yellow cards.

Atudo is expected to partner with Brian Mandela at the heart of defence as the duo re-unite in the national team after playing together while at Tusker FC in 2012.

Having been criticised by fans on social media for poor fielding, Okumbi is likely to make good use of his natural left-back Dennis Odhiambo, who was unused as a substitute in Bissau.

Odhiambo’s inclusion will see James Situma shift to the right side of defence while beleaguered Patillah Omotto of Kariobangi Sharks will probably be rested for the experienced Anthony Akumu in the midfield.

Harambee Stars goal keeper Arnold Origi in training.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

Harambee Stars goal keeper Arnold Origi in training.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya.

Skipper Victor Wanyama has urged his team mates to give their best and ensure they amend the first-leg disappointing performance.

“We didn’t play well and our concentration was lost at some point. We are focused on tomorrow, although we have to admit that our chances of making it to AFCON have grown slimmer. We will fight till the end and we have to win at home plus the remaining two matches,” Wanyama urged.

Stars hopes have been reduced to mathematical where a win over Guinea Bissau and draw between Zambia and Congo will give them a new lease of life and throw open Group E.

“We would have made it easier for ourselves by winning in Bissau but those are bygones. Tomorrow is about giving our all and we can’t afford to lose,” the Norway based Lillestrome first choice shot-stopper added.

The match kicks-off at 4pm local time where 20,500 tickets will be printed – 18,000 for the terraces that will retail at Sh300 and 2,500 for the VIP stand with each costing Sh1,000.

Guinea Bissau arrived on Saturday morning and had a training session at the match venue in the evening.

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