NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 30- AFC Leopards have gone three matches without a win and head coach Ivan Minnaert has urged his charges to get off their comfort zone and fight for a rebound when they host Ulinzi Stars in the quarter final of the KPL Top Eight tournament on Sunday.
Leopards will be facing the military side for the second time in a span of less than two weeks with their last meeting in Mumias having ended in disarray.
The match was later awarded to Ulinzi and Ingwe’s hearts sunk further on Thursday when they lost 2-1 to Western Stima in Kisumu.
“We need to change our mentality and get off our comfort zone. April has been a disaster for us because we have not performed as well as we did in March when we had a fantastic month. We really have to work and ensure we bounce back,” Minnaert told Capital Sport.
He adds he has been working to build on the players’ mental strength as well as their defense as they have been giving away too many opportunities to opponents.
“We need to help the players recover mentally because that is the biggest thing. The past results have set them back and we need to ensure their mentality is right,” Minnart added.
The best Leopards have done in the Top Eight tournament was a final appearance in 2013 when they lost to Tusker.
Minnaert sees the Top Eight as a perfect opportunity to bag a trophy early and he has tipped his boys to overcome a tough UIlinzi side and progress.
The military side who won the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2011 have been starved of a title in the last four years and head coach Robert Matano will be looking at the Top Eight as a possible launching pad.
In the early kick off on Saturday, Bandari FC will play Tusker FC in a match expected to spark fireworks.
Bandari have gone six matches without a win and head coach Twahir Muhiddin expects them to use the Tusker match as an opportunity to restore their confidence.
“It has been a rough patch for us but hopefully we can take this opportunity to bounce back. Tusker is a tough team and they have won this tournament twice before. We expect it tough but I have talked to my boys and told them how important it is for us to win,” Muhiddin said.
Ugandan midfielder Musa Mudde will still be sidelined for this match after picking up an eye injury in their match against Western Stima in Kisumu two weeks ago.
“He (Muhiddin) has been the engine of the team after establishing himself well and missing him has been evident because we have lost both matches. But I think it is a challenge to the other players to work hard and show us they merit a starting berth,” the coach added.
Bandari will be making their second appearance in the tournament, the last being in 2014 when they lost to AFC Leopards in the first round.