NAIROBI, Kenya, April 15- Kenyan Premier League (KPL) titleholders, Ulinzi Stars, welcome one of the frontrunners in the race to dispose them from to their crown, Sofapaka, as the first ‘Milk’ derby between Gor Mahia and Thika United goes down this weekend.
Leaders Tusker travel to Mombasa to face improving Bandari with second placed Western Stima welcoming Mathare United to their Bukhungu Stadium fortress in Kakamega on Sunday.
Saturday’s televised double header at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium will be highlighted by the clash between the flagging titleholders who were held to a barren draw away to Chemelil and Sofapaka who received a shock 2-0 reverse to Rangers.
The occasion will mark Sofapaka coach Francis Kimanzi’s first away match since returning to the league three weeks ago from Holland.
His team beat Sony Sugar 2-0 on Wednesday to qualify for the KPL Top 8 semis where he stated his desire to challenge for all four trophies, specifically CAF Confederation Cup, the league, KPL Top 8 and Football Kenya Cup, the well heeled club is chasing this season.
“I believe what keeps players going is when they have a lot at stake. When there is nothing at stake then there is nothing to motivate the players with.
“I know I have a professional team with professional players and they know that when they have more responsibility you have to raise you game and have more focus,” Kimanzi expressed.
Gifted midfielder, Anthony Kimani, is a major doubt for the tie after being withdrawn against Sony following a rash tackle by Francis Odhiambo that got the latter sent-off.
Ulinzi coach, Benjamin Nyangweso, said his team would miss four dependable players to injury, namely keeper Francis Ochieng, centre back Geoffrey Kokoyo, skipper Stephen Ochola in midfield and forward Lawrence Owino.
“The team is yet to get back on the right track but my boys are ready for Sofapaka. Losing these players is a blow but we have to do without them,” Nyangweso told Capital Sport.
That match will be preceded by the tie starring stuttering home side Karuturi Sports against fellow strugglers Chemelil.
The prodigious return of James Nandwa who rejoined the club from Tusker has not fired Karuturi to the desired results and last weekend’s 3-0 defeat by Mathare was their third league loss.
They are however, unbeaten at home this season, winning twice and drawing the other league fixture.
Chemelil are coming to the game on the back of tough assignments since their opening day away win against newcomers Congo United having faced Sofapaka, Tusker, Ulinzi and highflying Rangers.
They will fancy their chances against a side that is only two points above them in the standings.
Having landed a record Sh38m sponsorship deal with Tuzo, the pressure is on Gor Mahia to demonstrate to fellow Brookside backed side, Thika United, the reason why the firm opted to award them a more lucrative deal in the first ‘Milk’ derby on Sunday.
Additional strain on the KPL runner-ups will be to justify the massive K’Ogalo migration to Thika Municipal Stadium by their fervent fans that begins at Nairobi’s Jevanjee Gardens Sunday morning as well as recovering from their 1-0 upset against bottom side City Stars last weekend.
Leaders Tusker, who picked themselves up from their first defeat of the season at the hands of Sofapaka to beat Sony Sugar 2-0 in Awendo, have already won in Mombasa this season having topped Congo United 2-1.
The Brewers who have won all their away fixtures face Bandari who have bounced from a poor opening to win their last two home games.
Third placed KCB, who continue to defy expectations, entertain basement side Congo United at City Stadium as in form Rangers, a place and point adrift, take on Sony Sugar who have lost their last three games, at Nyayo National Stadium.
The early kick-off at Nyayo will see City Stars attempt to upset another doyen club of Kenyan football when they face a wounded AFC Leopards who saw the Bankers deposit an unanswered lone goal for the win last weekend.
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