NAIROBI, Kenya, September 11 – New Gor Mahia boss, Frank Nutall, begins life at the helm of K’ogalo with the sternest of tests against Tusker as AFC Leopards launch their unlikely quest of overhauling the 14-point gap with leaders as Kenyan Premier League (KPL) resumes this weekend.
Champions Gor will be involved in the tie of the round on Sunday when Nutall marks his debut with a baptism of fire against closest rivals Tusker at Kasarani.
Their arch enemies Leopards hope to have cut the yawning gap by three when they take on Western Stima at Moi Stadium in Kisumu which welcomes the top flight for the first time in eight years a day before.
On the other end of the spectrum, relegation threatened KCB and City Stars face acid tests against Ulinzi and title chasing Sofapaka as the battle to escape the trapdoor intensifies.
Deep end debut for Nuttall
New Gor head coach Nuttall faces an uphill test on his KPL debut when he locks horns with the Brewers in what is their final game in hand against their closest challengers to the crown.
The Dutchman, who tasted his first defeat last weekend after a 3-0 thrashing at Tanzania titans Simba SC in a friendly, will be out to prove himself as he begins his three months probation.
The outcome of the game has a major impact on both sides given only two points separate them but a win for K’Ogalo will buy breathing space at the top with the Brewers having played a match more.
“I’m really excited and can’t wait for my first league match. I know it is going to be a difficult because Tusker also wants the title.
“The friendly was an eye opener, it enabled me analyze the squad and know what to work on,” Nuttall told the official Gor website.
The Brewers on the other hand enter the crunch with their heads high having eliminated the champions in the KPL Top 8 this season and holding them to a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
Nuttall will also be looking to give Gor their first win against Tusker since 2012 after his predecessor Bobby Williamson departed without registering a win against Francis Kimanzi’s side.
Leopards out to craw the gap
Leopards, who were held to a goalless draw by Stima in the first leg, have been lifted by the return of defender Abdalah Juma, midfielders Humphrey Mieno and Ezekiel Seda from injuries.
Team doctor Patrick Ngusale announced stopper Anthony Kimani has also recovered after undergoing a knee operation early January and will begin training in two weeks time.
“Situma had a slight knock over the weekend but we have treated him and is ready for selection as for Mieno he had Malaria and he finished his medication yesterday but it will depend on whether he gains fitness.
“Seda is 95 percent fit after undergoing a shoulder surgery three months ago, he has been training in the last one month and it will be upon the coach to determine if he is fit. Kimani is recovering well from a knee surgery and in the next two weeks he will begin training,” the doctor declared.
Heading into the clash, coach Pieter de Jongh will leave nothing to chance saying his charges have adapted to his 1-3-4-3 system on the back of successive KPL draws.
“I’m happy we are playing good football considering we are the only team who play1-3-4-3 formation in the league. I’m impressed with the boys’ performance of late.
“We have worked on our ball work and we expect a tough and physic encounter because there is no small team in football, the other day Manchester United were beaten by a second division team MK Dons,” the Dutchman stated.
With only eight matches to go, Harambee Stars winger Noah Wafula, believes a win over Stima will keep their slim hopes of wresting the title from their arch rivals alive.
“We are not under pressure. The team is compact and we are going to work hard to make sure we don’t lose the remaining matches. Stima are physical but we are also strong and we are ready for them.
“I still believe I can be the top scorer. I have scored three while the top scorer has nine, so six goals for a striker is not much,” Wafula declared.
The winger singled out Chemelil Sugar and Bandari as teams that will give them hard time in their remaining games that also includes Sony, KCB, Nakuru All Stars, Thika United and Sofapaka.
Other fixtures will see relegation threatened sides take centre stage with KCB inviting Ulinzi in Friday’s double header at Nairobi’s Nyayo National stadium before City Stars take on Sofapaka at the same venue.