NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 17 – Four competitive matches without a win, the last one being a 5-2 hammering at the hands of new boys Nzoia United, Tusker FC head coach George Nsimbe knows the pressure is on his side and he hopes to ease some of it when they take on Thika United in a Kenyan Premier League match on Sunday.
The defending champions have not been convincing enough and their performance last weekend in Nakuru left a lot to be desired.
Nsimbe says he has worked on his players’ mental strength and motivation ahead of the Thika duel and he is confident they have found the right recipe to serve out their first win of the season on a golden plate.
“I have looked at the players’ attitude in training this week and I am convinced that we have prepared well and we are ready to get our first win. It hasn’t been the best of starts for us but now, the boys are in good shape. There’s a big change from how we were last week,” Nsimbe told Capital Sport.
He says the side has thoroughly worked on their defense of set pieces after conceding all their goals against Nzoia from set play. One was from a freekick, three from corners and one from the penalty spot.
Nsimbe faces a potential banana skin at home against James Nandwa’s side seething from an opening day home loss against Mathare United.
The Ugandan tactician has said he has taken the match with utmost seriousness;
“They are a good team with young players who run a lot and we shouldn’t take them lightly. They might have lost their first game of the season, but it is not to say they are weak. We need to reduce our mistakes and maximize on the chances we get,” said Nsimbe.
He has been boosted with the return of midfielder Humphrey Mieno and forward Allan Wanga who missed last weekend’s assignment while winger Danson Kago remains sidelined with a knee injury. The coach is excited with the return of the duo and hopes they will inspire them to victory.
-Nzoia seek perfect start-
Elsewhere, Nzoia will play their first top flight match at their Sudi Stadium base in Bungoma and they will be up against Mathare United, hoping to keep their giant killing game in tow.
Mathare head coach Francis Kimanzi is playing cautious ahead of the fixture, but notes he will not be deterred by the fact that Nzoia beat the defending champions with a huge margin.
“We are a different team and this is a different game so we cannot look at how they played against another opponent. We are only looking at our match. They don’t know us, we don’t know them so it is going to be even on the pitch,” Kimanzi said.
He remains confident his side is well prepared for the tie as they look to build on from their 3-2 win over Thika last weekend.
Apart from the motivation of their opening day win over the defending champions, Nzoia will have the push of playing a Premier League match at their Sudi backyard for the first time in close to 13 years.
But Nzoia United head coach Bernard Mwalala underlines this will be a different approach altogether and says last weekend’s victory will not in any way dwell on their minds when they tackle the slum boys.
In another interesting tie of the weekend, Paul Nkata will be taking the close to 520km journey from Mombasa to Thika as his Bandari side tackle Posta Rangers, with both teams having won their opening games in identical 1-0 patterns over newly promoted sides.
It will be a tough fixture for both sides but Nkata remains ever optimistic his mojo will go on as he looks for a second consecutive victory.
“Posta is a very good side and this will be a very tough match for us. We know they are a team which likes to press high the pitch and we know exactly how to counter them. The motivation is still up there after we started positively,” the Ugandan coach who won the title last season with Tusker offered.
Posta’s Sammy Omollo also acknowledges that it will be a tough tie but has tipped his experienced Posta side to come out victorious.
KPL Weekend fixtures
Saturday: Posta Rangers v Bandari FC (Thika Sub-County Stadium, 3 p.m.), Gor Mahia v Zoo Kericho (Moi Stadium, Kisumu, 3 p.m.), Nzoia United v Mathare United (Sudi Stadium, Bungoma, 3 p.m.), Chemelil Sugar v Kakamega Homeboyz 9 (Chemelil Complex 3 p.m.).
Sunday: Muhoroni Youth v Kariobangi Sharks (Muhoroni Stadium 3 p.m.), Sofapaka v Sony Sugar (Afraha Stadium 3:45 p.m.), Thika United v Tusker FC (2 p.m.), Nakumatt FC v AFC Leopards (Thika Sub-County Stadium – 4:15 p.m.)