NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 7- The top two Kenyan Premier League sides AFC Leopards and Bandari will be out to cement their positions when the 2017 season gets into match week four this weekend with nine matches spread across the country.
Bandari will be playing away to Ulinzi Stars at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium on Sunday while league leaders AFC Leopards will be at the Moi Stadium in Kisumu tackling Chemelil Sugar.
Paul Nkata’s men have picked seven points from three matches with home wins against Muhoroni Youth and Nakumatt coupled with an away point against Posta Rangers. They face their sternest test yet and a win against the soldiers will take them top of the standings if they win by a bigger margin than AFC.
The dockers have not beaten Ulinzi in their last 12 meetings, the military side winning six times while picking a point in the remaining six.
Nkata himself has a seemingly superior record against Ulinzi, having beaten them in the GOtv Shield final last year while with Tusker. In the two league meetings, Ulinzi won one while the brewers won the other in Nakuru.
“It will be a very tough match and I have maximum respect for Ulinzi. They have mature and experienced players and it is not one of those matches we can go with our chests up knowing we are going to win. It will be tough,” Nkata noted.
He will be without the services of strikers Enock Agwanda and Edwin Lavatsa for the tie. Agwanda picked up an ankle injury during last weekend’s 3-0 win over Muhoroni Youth while Lavatsa has been out since pre-season with a knee problem.
Ulinzi come into the match having had barely 72 hours to rest after a midweek tie against AFC Leopards in Machakos. Head coach Benjamin Nyangweso though is unfazed, saying his side knew of the consequences of playing in CAF Competitions and are adequately prepared.
“It will be a tough match against Bandari because they have started the season well. We have also started well, but I am only concerned with our striking because we have not been converting chances as well as we should,” Nyangweso opined.
He will miss the services of defender Mohammed ‘Rio’ Hassan who dislocated his shoulder in the drab draw with AFC Leopards in midweek while left back Omar Mbongi will be out for three months as he is out on a career progression course with the military.
-AFC Leopards v Chemelil-
At the Moi Stadium in Kisumu, Stewart Hall’s Ingwe will be up against a side they have beaten only twice in the last decade. Chemelil Sugar has been AFC’s Achilles heel and the only two victories have been a 1-0 result in the GOtv Shield in 2013 and a 2-1 result in the league the following year.
Hall knows only too well the history between the two sides but he maintains a strong face that he has the right ingredient to change the tune.
“No doubt it will be a tough match for us but looking at how we have started the season, there is so much positivity in the team. The only problem is that we have some players carrying some injuries and we already have (Mungai) Kiongera out,” the tactician noted.
Kiongera’s absence was hugely visible in the Ulinzi midweek stalemate and Hall admitted as much that at some point, the forward line lacked punch.
Ingwe will remain top of the standings if they win by a considerable margin in Kisumu.
In other matches former champions Gor Mahia will be out to bounce back from their shock 2-1 loss to Western Stima last weekend when they host Kakamega Homeboyz in one of the two fixtures to be played in Nakuru on Saturday.
Only a point separates the two sides at third and sixth respectively. In their last four meetings, Gor has won twice and picked a single point in the other two matches.
At the Thika Stadium defending champions Tusker FC will hope their new found form ticks them on as they face a resurgent Sofapaka. It will be an interesting clash of two respected Ugandan coaches, George Nsimbe for Tusker and Sam Ssimbwa for Sofapaka.
Last season, Tusker picked four points off Batoto ba Mungu, winning 1-0 in the first leg and drawing 1-1 in the second leg.
KPL Weekend fixtures
Saturday: Nakumatt FC v Sony Sugar (2 p.m.), Gor Mahia v Kakamega Homeboyz (Afraha Stadium, 4:15 p.m.), Muhoroni Youth v Mathare United (Muhoroni Complex, (3 p.m.).
Sunday: Sofapaka v Tusker FC (2 p.m.), Thika United v Zoo Kericho (Thika Stadium, 4:15 p.m.), Nzoia United v Kariobangi Sharks (Sudi Stadium, 3 p.m.), Chemelil Sugar v AFC Leopards (Moi Stadium Kisumu 3 p.m.), Posta Rangers v Western Stima (2 p.m.), Ulinzi Stars v Bandari (Afraha