NAIROBI, Kenya, February 28 – Gor Mahia head coach Bobby Williamson, has urged his charges to keep a clean sheet when they host Esperance Sportive de Tunis in the opening leg of their first round CAF Champions League tie at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.
The two-time champions are already in the country after arriving on Thursday and are set to have a feel of the match venue this evening (Friday).
“It’s not going to be easy to play against them since they have been to this competition for a long time and are highly ranked in the continent, but we are also here on merit and we have been improving with every game.
“I’m confident we will make it by outplaying them in all departments and ensure we don’t concede,” the Scot asserted.
On the other hand Esperance tactician Ruud Krol, said he will be content if his side beat K’Ogalo at their home turf though he admitted to have little knowledge about them.
“My players are in good shape and ready for this tie. I have only watched Gor on internet and I’ve seen they have good and experienced players.
“We will exercise some cautious play but still target a positive result,” the Dutch tactician who won last season’s CAF Confederations Cup title with another Tunisian club CS Sfaxien told journalists moments after the team touched down.
Many of Gor enthusiasts will turn up at Nyayo Stadium on Saturday to witness their own battle it out with the North African side and hope for a 1987 repeat when K’Ogalo floored them in the finals of CAF Cup Winners’ Cup (Mandela Cup) to lift their first ever continental silverware.
However, as the man who scored the lone goal that sunk the Tunisian giants Peter Dawo, told Capital Sport that the class of 2014 will have a difficult task to overcome the North Africans, its likely to be so since a lot has changed for both teams over the last 27 years.
Most of the players in the current squad were young or not born when the two sides last met and come Saturday, Gor will not only be looking to repeat the history but also enter into the records as the only team to have beaten a North African team in the recent years after Tusker FC and Sofapaka fell victim.
The domestic League champions who have started the season on a high after winning their two league matches, will hope to carry on the good run in the opening leg.
But this will not be easy as Gor will be without Harambee Stars defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino, who is suspended after picking a red card during their preliminary round return leg against Gabonese side US Bitam, where they won 4-2 on post match penalties after a 1-1 aggregate.
The defensive vacancy has cast open the race for his replacement with Ugandan Israel Emuge and Kevin Oluoch, most likely candidates for selection.
Although Williamson has expressed his disappointment with Owino’s absence, he has confidence in his defenders’ ability to provide effective cover.
“It’s sad Owino will not be available for the game. We were not happy about the red card but we have to do without him.”
Gor Mahia have been boosted by the return of Patrick Oboya and Kevin Omondi, from injury after the pair missed in the preliminary match.
Captain Jerim Onyango, who was nick named ‘King Jerry’ after saving four spot-kicks (two in regulation time and the same in shoot outs) said the team is highly motivated to take on their opponents.
“With the kind of the technical bench and players we have, I’m sure we will go places. As a team we are going to work hard and I’m sure we will make it,” the goalkeeper who was only three when Gor played Esperance assured.
Talisman Dan Sserunkuma, will be the man to watch as he will be looking to score his second in the champions league.
He will be assisted by new signing Jared Obwoge, George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo and Rama Salim, while Ugandan Geoffrey Kizito, will be standing tall in the midfield alongside Teddy Akumu as Timona Wanyonyi and Shaban Kenga, will be providing the crosses from the flanks.
Among the star players in the traveling party of Esperance are Tunisian international midfielders Iheb Msakni and Mejdi Traoui.
Others are fist choice Carthage Eagles keeper Moez Ben Cherifia, attacking midfielder Ousamma Daragi, Ghana international Emmanuel Atukwei and Cameroonian Yannick Djeng.