NAIROBI, Kenya, May 12 – Kenyan Premier League new boys Zoo Kericho have warned AFC Leopards not to expect to bounce back with them when the two sides lock horns at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos on Sunday.
Limping Ingwe suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of arch rivals Gor Mahia as well as Sony Sugar and Zoo who have won only two matches this season have vowed to inflict a third consecutive loss on them.
“Probably in their minds they are thinking that we are pushovers and they will come and easily pick points against us. But the same vigor with which they are preparing to win is the same we are doing this other side. They should not expect it easy because we are no pushovers,” Zoo head coach Sammy Okoth told Capital Sport.
The Kericho based side was pegged back in midweek with a 2-0 loss at the hands of champions Tusker FC having picked away wins against Ulinzi Stars and Western Stima.
Okoth has blamed the loss on a mentality collapse from his side who took the game easy after Tusker players came in for the match without playing cards, hence knew they would be awarded points.
“In their minds they knew that these were easy points and their attitude changed and never fought as well as we had planned. Yes, we played the game under protest, but we should have put in the seriousness deserved,” Okoth said.
However, Capital Sports has learnt that Tusker’s victory from the match will be reversed and the points awarded to Zoo only if it is proved that an unregistered player featured in the game.
“Normally what happens is that all the players in the match sheet are checked all over again and if any who doesn’t have a card played, then the points are reversed. After the referee’s report is received and analyzed, a decision will be made,” a source at the KPL said.
But even as they chose to leave behind their loss in midweek, Zoo will put all their energy on getting all three points against AFC Leopards.
“We have gained some considerable experience playing in this league. We are prepared well to face AFC which we know will not be an easy opponent because they have not been getting good results as well. But we know the importance of getting those three points,” Okoth noted.
AFC head coach Stewart Hall will be a man under pressure and he will be out to avoid another drop in points which will see them deep further off the top half of the table.
-Gor Mahia away to Nzoia Sugar-
Meanwhile, 15-time champions Gor Mahia will be away to Nzoia Sugar at the Mumias Complex with an ambition of maintaining their position on top of the standings.
Gor head coach Jose Marcelo Ferreira is wary of Nzoia’s threat despite his side enjoying good form and he has urged his charges to maintain the focus and seriousness.
“They are not an easy team even though this is their first season in the league. But for us, we need to continue working in the same way. We want to go out and win and that is our mentality,” the Brazilian coach said.
He is expected to recall right back Karim Nizigiyimana to the starting team after the Burundian missed their midweek clash against Chemelil in Thika with winger Innocent Wafula starting in his place.
The tactician remains upbeat the team is well oiled to keep the winning mentality running and says the confidence picked after their consecutive wins will spur them on.
Nzoia beat Gor 1-0 last year in the GOtv Shield but head coach Bernard Mwalala will not be counting on that past success, instead looking on to the new duel.
Despite a positive start which saw them shock defending champions Tusker 5-2 in Nakuru, the sugar millers have struggled to maintain the same tempo and have not won in their last three assignments.
More worrying for them is their home form that has seen them fail to win in five attempts, drawing four and losing once.
-Posta out to reclaim top spot-
Meanwhile, Posta Rangers head coach Sammy ‘Pamzo’ Omollo has urged his players to get the winning mojo back as they plan to host a tough Nakumatt side at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru.
Posta were knocked off top spot in midweek after a 1-1 draw away to Muhoroni Youth.
“It is important for us to start winning convincingly because if you look at all our matches, we have won 1-0. It has been an area of concern and we have tried to work on the finishing. Hopefully it shows this weekend because we need to get that win,” Omollo said.
Rangers remain unbeaten after 10 matches and Omollo hopes they can maintain the same run though it will not be an easy walk against Nakumatt.
Nakumatt who are 12th in the log have picked up five points over a possible nine in their last three matches and have proved to be compact tactically.
-Tusker host Sony in Ruaraka-
Before moving to the Kinoru Stadium in Meru where they will play all their home matches beginning from May 28 against AFC Leopards, Tusker will host Sony Sugar at the Ruaraka Complex hoping for a fifth consecutive win.
But even as head coach George ‘best’ Nsimbe prepares for that duel, he will be bombarded with more stressing issues with impressive left back Shafik Batambuze set to leave the club for Tanzanian outfit Singida United.
According to Tusker FC Chief Executive Officer Charles Obiny, Singida have officially approached them for the services of the Ugandan and it is only a matter of agreement before he leaves in June.
“The player himself has expressed his intention to leave and as a team, we can’t prevent a player to leave if he wants to leave. We are yet to reach an agreement with Singida but basically, he might be leaving. We are already looking at the options we have to fill the void,” Obiny said.
But even despite the worry, Nsimbe will choose to focus on finishing the first leg on a high with three games remaining before the June transfer window is opened.
Sony will be a different challenge for them with the Awendo based side coming into the fixture with new confidence, their 1-0 midweek win over AFC Leopards breaking a run of six winless matches.
Against a side they have struggled to beat over the last two seasons head coach Salim Babu is motivated to pluck off all three points that might probably take them to the top half of the table.
Over the last 16 meetings, Sony has beaten Tusker only six times with the Brewers winning 10 times. The last time Sony won over Tusker was a 1-0 result in Awendo way back in July 2014.
In other matches to be played this weekend, Sofapaka will be away to Chemelil Sugar on the backdrop of successive losses against Posta and Ulinzi Stars.
The 2009 champions are looking to maintain a top four slot by the halfway mark and a return to winning ways will not be an option for Sam Ssimbwa and his men.
In Nakuru, Ulinzi Stars who are third in the log are up to maintain their position among the table of men when they host Muhoroni Youth, a side that hasn’t won in their last four matches. The two met in pre-season with Ulinzi winning 2-1.
In Machakos, Kariobangi Sharks who have surprised friend and foe with some good form that has seen them win three of their last four matches to sit six in the table will be at home against Bandari who are just a point above them.
KPL Weekend fixtures:
Saturday: Chemelil Sugar v Sofapaka (Chemelil Complex), Kariobangi Sharks v Bandari (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos), Ulinzi Stars v Muhoroni Youth (Afraha Stadium, Nakuru), Western Stima v Mathare United (Moi Stadium, Kisumu).
Sunday: AFC Leopards v Zoo Kericho (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos), Nzoia Sugar v Gor Mahia (Mumias Complex), Posta Rangers v Nakumatt (Afraha Stadium, Nakuru), Thika United v Kakamega Homeboyz (Thika Stadium), Tusker FC v SoNy Sugar (Ruaraka Complex)