NAIROBI, Kenya, April 11- Leaders Tusker FC face the sternest test this weekend when they visit title pretenders Sofapaka in Machakos as champions Gor Mahia travel to Nakuru to take on former winners Ulinzi Stars in the glamour ties of the ninth round of the Kenyan Premier League.
Stuttering giants AFC Leopards who sacked their coach James Nandwa on Thursday entertain Nairobi City Stars in Mumias as the first battle between promoted sides, KRA and Top Fry Nakuru unfolds at Nairobi’s City Stadium in other intriguing ties.
The Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos will see Francis Kimanzi come up his former side Sofapaka keen to maintain the four point gap they opened at the summit by downing Sony Sugar 1-0 in midweek in yet another examination of their credentials to reclaim the crown they held in 2011 and 12.
Tusker’s first big encounter three weeks ago yielded a 1-1 draw against champions Gor with Kimanzi’s side surviving playing with nine men for the last 12 minutes to force the stalemate.
The former Harambee Stars coach boasts of having a depth in midfield that will be led by Khalid Aucho, 2013 KPL midfielder of the year who is returning after serving his suspension for a red card against Gor, Brian Osumba, Kevin Kimani and Andrew Tololwa.
His opposite number, Ugandan Sam Timbe, will be looking upon his forwards Enock Agwanda, Humphrey Mieno and Mustapha Kasolo to fire for goals in what is proving to be a season they are blowing hot and cold although the Batoto ba Mungu are coming from their 2-1 win over Mathare United in the ‘Machakos’ derby midweek.
K’Ogalo in tough Nakuru test
In Nakuru, Gor will come up against the tactical choker block that is Robert Matano who is keen on inspiring his new side Ulinzi to a second win on the spin after their 1-0 success over tricky Western Stima at the same Afraha Stadium.
The champions who held on for a 3-2 win over basement side KCB to stem a run of four games without victory are however, reported to be in disarray with financial constraints hitting them hard following the lapse of their sponsorship with Brookside Dairies last month.
K’Ogalo chairman, Ambrose Rachier, is said to have coaxed the players to play against KCB with a fraction of their pay after they went without their dues in March as they shop around for another sponsor, hardly the environment their Scottish coach, Bobby Williamson, wants to operate under.
Already, there is unease among their Green Army supporters following the dire state the club finds itself in and police had to lobby teargas at the end of their KCB game to disperse dissenting fans.
A reverse to Matano’s new charges will only stoke more flames in what is shaping up to be an uncertain defense to their title but on the bright side, K’Ogalo, who moved up to second, are only four points off the lead. A win coupled with Tusker slipping up could put them in a position to challenge the front runners with the Green Army planning to travel to Nakuru in their droves.
Williamson, is expected to make no major changes from the squad that fell the bankers with Rama Salim who combined well with their top scorer Dan Sserunkuma, regaining the form that endeared him to the Green Army in 2012 after opening his account on Wednesday.
The return of Harambee Stars defenders, stopper David ‘Calabar’ Owino and left back Musa Mohammed, provided assurances at the back and they are set to combine with bubbling teenager Haron Shakava and Cranes right back Godfrey Walusimbi in defense.
For Leopards, Nandwa’s turbulent spell in charge that has yielded two wins, four draws and two losses ended and interim boss, Washington Muhanji, has the task of lifting a team that stood in awe as their previous head coach was axed as they travelled to Mumias.
Ingwe who have managed to beat City Stars only once in their last four encounters will face opposition from forwards Jimmy Bagaye, George Abege and veteran Justus Basweti, a former Ingwe favourite.
Under Englishman Tim Bryett, City Stars battled for a point against Chemelil Sugar midweek and will be seeking to pile more pressure on Leopards as they prepare to name a new foreign head coach in the coming week.
New boys take centre stage
In the tussle between the KPL new boys; KRA, who are coming from a high of sinking Ingwe 1-0 on Wednesday will be without dependable midfielders Philemon Omondi and Barrack Odhiambo, when they host Top Fry Nakuru at Nairobi’s City Stadium.
The duo are sidelined after picking injuries during the Leopards match where they won 1-0 with the debutants locking horns in the early televised fixture before struggling KCB welcome Bandari at the same venue later Saturday.
Both sides have kicked-off their top flight in contrasting fashion with the taxmen chalking three wins, two draws and three losses while Nakuru are languishing in the relegation zone after winning once, drawing one and falling six time.
“I’m happy with my team’s performance so far though it has not been an easy ride to reach where we are at the moment. The challenge is to maintain the good run and make sure we are not relegated. Winning against big team like AFC Leopards is a huge achievement not only to me but to the entire playing Unit.
“Top Fry has good players and coach so I will not underrate them but we are motivated by the Leopards win as we head to Saturday’s match though we expect a tough game since the league is getting tough every day,” Ken Kenyatta, who joined the taxmen as head coach in 2006 told Capital Sport Friday.
“My win depends on the players since the ball is in their court, my work is only to train then the rest is upon them to perfect during the game,” the former Harambee Stars and AFC Leopards shot-stopper added.
Midfielder Roy Okal and forward Collins Tiego are still missing for KRA after sneaking out of the country for trials but in their places will be taken by Philip Odhiambo, Geoffrey Omusula, Geoffrey Kataka, Ivan Anguyo and Douglas Okumu.
Elsewhere, Mathare United play away to Chemelil Sugar while Muhoroni invite Western Stima as Thika United travel to take on Sony Sugar at Awendo’s Green stadium to round off the eight fixtures on the cards.
14:00 KRA vs Top Fry Nakuru City (TV)
15:00 AFC Leopards vs City Stars Mumias
15:00 Chemelil Sugar vs Mathare United Chemelil
16:15 KCB vs Bandari City (TV)
14:00 Sofapaka vs Tusker Machakos
15:00 Muhoroni Youth vs Western Stima Muhoroni
15:00 Ulinzi Stars vs Gor Mahia Afraha
15:00 Sony Sugar vs Thika United Awendo