NAIROBI, April 8 – AFC Leopards head coach Ivan Minnaert has disclosed he will drop 10 players when the June transfer window opens as he seeks to strengthen the team in a bid to recapture the SportPesa Premier League crown for the first time in 18 years.
Minnaert believes the team stands a chance to fight for the title, and for them to achieve it, they must bolster the squad with experienced players.
The Belgian is looking at signing eight players, but says it will depend on the budget.
“I have already identified the players who will leave the club but the final decision will be made after I meet with the executive. There are eight I need to bring in but depending on what the executive will say in terms of budget, we might sign a minimum of six players. This week I had talks with different potential signings,” Minnaert said.
The coach, who joined Ingwe from Rwandese side Rayon Sport, says he needs three strikers, two centre backs, one left back, one holding midfielder and a reserve goalkeeper.
Amidst reports that a few former Leopards players might want to return to the den, Minnaert, who is eying Malian forward Ismailia Diarra, dismissed the claims.
Among the players understood to be making a comeback include Bandari FC duo of Edwin Wafula and Bernard Mang’oli as well as Allan Wanga whose contract with Tanzanian outfit Azam FC ends next month.
“I don’t think we will go for any ex-AFC players, maybe one but not all of them. We will go for new blood; those who are hungry to battle for the title. I will also bring players I have worked with before, those I know will add something extra to the team,” the coach added.
Ingwe are third on the log and they will be looking to bounce back to the top when they host Sofapaka at the Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.
Leopards enter the clash wounded from last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of City Stars and Minnaert has demanded a response from his boys.
“We have worked on how we defend set pieces. We conceded cheap set piece goals and we have tried to work in training to correct this. Also, we have worked on our finishing because we create many chances but find it hard to hit the back of the net.”
“I’m hoping for an improvement. It will not be easy against Sofapaka regardless of their form because every team gives their all when they play against Leopards,” Minnaert stated.
Sofapaka are struggling, having lost six successive matches to trail the log on three points.
Batoto ba Mungu will be without head coach David Ouma who will be leading the Harambee Starlets in a Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Algeria on Friday.
Leopards will go top if Mathare United and Tusker drop points. The Brewers will be away to Western Stima in Kisumu while Mathare welcomes Sony Sugar FC in a late kick off at Nyayo Stadium.
Mathare has started the season on a high, picking four wins in seven matches but head coach Francis Kimanzi will not be quick to put pressure on his charges by proclaiming title ambitions.
“We are a young team and it is a pleasure for us being at the top with some of the big teams. We are looking to learn from them and playing our matches well,” Kimanzi said.
He comes up against his former assistant at Tusker, Leonard Odipo as he aims to give a kick at a chance to move top of the standings.
Odipo is under pressure, having failed to win a single match in his first seven games but a change in his technical bench two weeks ago gave him more freedom to work with people he is familiar with and has vowed to pluck Sony off the doldrums of relegation.
Elsewhere, Gor Mahia’s Samba beat will make its next stop against Ushuru at Nyayo Stadium on Sunday.
Brazilian Jose Marcelo Ferreira is yet to taste defeat after collecting two out of two wins since joining the record 15 time champions.
The involvement of Rwandese forward Jacques Tuyisenge, who has an amazing scoring rate of three in two matches, remains in doubt having limped out of their 2-1 win over Thika United in midweek where he scored both goals.
Ferreira will be banking on his side to keep dancing to his beat and they will be out to move into the top four if they pick the maximum points Ken Kenyatta’s Ushuru FC.
In four league meetings between the two sides, the taxmen have not scored against Gor and have lost three. The best they did was collecting a point in their first meeting in 2014.
Gor’s match will be presided over by Ulinzi Stars who will be away to Posta Rangers at the same venue.
Ulinzi have an envious away record to remain unbeaten, having picked seven out of a possible nine points in the three matches they have played away from home.
The military side boasts of the meanest defence in the league, having conceded three goals in seven matches.
That defence will come up against the second best scorer in the league, Timothy Otieno who has scored four times this season.
Posta have not won in three matches, losing against Homeboyz and drawing twice consecutively, at home to Sony Sugar and away to Thika United.
KPL Weekend fixtures:
Saturday; AFC Leopards v Sofapaka, Mathare United v Sony Sugar (Nyayo Stadium),Kakamega Homeboyz v City Stars (Mumias), Western Stima v Tusker FC (Kisumu).
Sunday; Posta Rangers v Ulinzi Stars, Gor Mahia v Ushuru FC (Nyayo Stadium), Chemelil v Thika United (Chemelil), Muhoroni v Bandari (Muhoroni).