NAIROBI, Kenya, April 4- With odds against them, Kenyan clubs competing in continental championships this weekend are holding on to minor miracles to overcome Egyptian giants in Alexandria and Nairobi.
League champions, Tusker FC are in Egypt to face record seven-time winners, Al Ahly who nosed ahead 2-1 during their opening leg of their CAF Champions League in Nairobi a fortnight ago.
The Robert Matano’ s led side retreated to Limuru in central Kenya to prepare for the tie where they need at least two unanswered goals to seal their passage to the next round of the elite tournament for the first time since 2001.
“We will be under no pressure since we will be playing away. The pressure will be on them to perform and from the first leg, we saw that we could match them and only lost on the two mistakes we made in the second half when we lacked concentration,” Matano said.
Tusker carried a contingent of 31 to Cairo when they left Nairobi on Tuesday for the tie that has been shifted to Alexandria owing to the volatile situation in Egypt.
Having won their first league match of the season in their title defence when they beat port side Bandari FC 2-1 last weekend, Tusker, who have made seven appearances in the competition remodelled to Champions League have a glimmer of hope when they take on the Cairo giants who faltered to deceive in Nairobi.
They progressed to the first round of the tournament by completing a 7-1 aggregate mauling of Seychellois side St Michel having last graced this stage in 2008.
In Egypt, Matano will be counting on Jesse Were, who has scored in his last three competitive matches including the goal that gave his side hope after they fell 2-0 to Ahly in Nairobi.
Others include Andrew Tololwa and Moses Arita who will be tossed to the attack in Alexandria.
On the other hand, domestic Cup holders Gor Mahia face the daunting task of overturning a 3-0 deficit when they welcome Egyptian side ENPPI to Nairobi in their return leg of their CAF Confederations Cup first round clash.
However, Croat coach, Zradvko Logarusic who saw his side recover from a first league defeat in 21 games when they stopped Mathare United 1-0 last weekend, is counting on home support and precedent to upset the opposition.
“When we played in Egypt, our opponents had everything in their favour including a home advantage. We are now bringing the game home and with the kind of preparations we have been making, we should overturn the current result and move on to the next round,” Logarusic told SuperSport.com.
Injuries have contrived to rob him of influential players such as new signing Paul Mungai Kiongera who was instrumental in their 5-0 aggregate demolition of another Seychellois side Anse Re-Union in the preliminary round. Kiongera was yet to resume training ahead of the ENPPI tie.
Assured of voluminous crowd support on Saturday, Gor who remain the only Kenyan side to lift a continental title when they won the 1987 CAF Cup Winners Cup (now defunct) are seeking to emulate local rivals Sofapaka who completed a 4-2 aggregate win over another Egyptian side Ismaily in the 2011 edition.
Then, the Kenyan side blanked their rivals 4-0 at home after leaving Ismailia trailing 2-0 in what remains the biggest winning margin over an Egyptian outfit.
Logarusic is hoping influential midfielder, Rama Salim, who has been a long term absentee, will be patched up to command his place in the side.
Salim was the club’ s second top scorer last term and his partnership with diminutive Ugandan striker, Dan Sserunkuma lifted Gor to the Cup as well as bringing them to a hair’ s breath of the league title that they lost to Tusker on the last day of the season.
ENPPI are top of the Egyptian league on 15 points as they seek to end the Ahly/Zamalek choke hold of their domestic league honours and are in Nairobi optimistic of completing the job.