NAIROBI, October 16- League champions, Gor Mahia, will continue their treble chase on Saturday with a tasty first-leg KPL Top 8 semi-final clash against wounded Tusker FC at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium.
The Brewers come to the battle of the titans intoxicated from managerial upheaval that saw head coach, Francis Kimanzi, ‘step aside’ from his role while Gor are keen to atone for a 2-1 aggregate defeat to their rivals at the same stage last season.
K’Ogalo who wrapped a third successive league crown last month are also seeking to protect an unbeaten run on home soil this season; lower division Palos FC from Kisumu their latest casualties with a 4-2 thumping in the GOTv Shield Round of 16 on Wednesday.
Stand in Tusker FC coach, Leonard Odipo, faces a baptism of fire against a side that can flick on the style at the touch of a button, motivated to pursue history as treble winners but he has the players to end Gor’s barnstorming run.
Claims of player sabotage against Kimanzi, the most qualified coach in East Africa with a UEFA B licence, have wafted from Tusker’s brewery and the manner Odipo’s boys acquaint themselves to the might of K’Ogalo will be a pointer towards veracity of the claims.
He will be missing the injured Brian Osumba and David Oyirwoth but the team has underwhelmed this season and still hurting from last weekend’s embarrassing Shield exit at the hands of lower tier Nzoia FC.
However, they possesses enough ingredients to churn out a potent brew for the three-peat domestic league champions with added incentive of taking home the bragging rights of being the first team to breach the champions.
Further, local media reports on Friday alleged Tusker have set in motion a daring raid to snap up head coach Frank Nutall from Gor, further inflaming the long-standing rivalry between the two clubs that between them, share 35 league titles.
Nutall and his assistant, Frank Ouna, stayed away from training Thursday to protest against non-payment, fuelling the allegations Tusker want to seize advantage and prise the pair away from the Green Army.
Nevertheless on previous occasions this term, Gor has braved financial woes to triumph, the glaring example being their dizzying run to the CECAFA Kagame Cup regional finals having travelled under a cloud of uncertainty due to lack of funds.
Besides the imposing forward line of top scorer, Michael Olunga and Meddie Kagere, Burundian internationals; Karim Nizigiyimana and Abouba Sibomana are back in the country from international duty and expected to start after missing out against Palos.
The televised match that starts at 4pm local time (+3GMT) will be preceded by the first-leg clash between Sofapaka, another giant that has limped through the season riddled by a crippling financial crisis and the rapidly improving Sony Sugar who ward off the threat of relegation after a poor first leg with a storming run in the second half of the SportPesa Premier League.
The 2009 champions came from behind to hold yet another faltering force, AFC Leopards in the collision of stuttering titans midweek in a league tie that ended 1-1 and will fancy their chances of victory.
Sofapaka and Sony exchanged victories in the Premier League but the sugar millers under the watch of Salim Babu, come with the sweet aftertaste of mowing Ulinzi Stars in the quarter-final as they plot another giant-killing act.
The return legs will be played on November 4.