NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 21- Holders Tusker FC and two former champions, Bandari FC and Sofapaka will headline the GOtv Shield round of 16 ties which go down this weekend as the hunt for the single ticket to represent Kenya in next year’s CAF Confederations Cup intensifies.
Tusker will be looking to defend its title while Sofapaka, winners in 2014 and Bandari, winners in 2015 look to add another title to their names.
On paper, Bandari and Sofapaka will have the toughest afternoons. Bandari will be in Mombasa against fellow Kenyan Premier League side Nakumatt in what will be a repeat of the 2014 final while Sofapaka will be at the Nyayo National Stadium, tackling last year’s semi-finalists Kariobangi Sharks.
Tusker will be at their Kinoru Stadium ‘slaughter house’ taking on fourth tier side Butterfly. Head coach George Nsimbe has warned his charges not to underrate their opponents.
“Cup games are usually very tricky; even a lower tier side can eliminate you. We can’t afford to underrate them because we don’t know what they are capable of doing. We take this match seriously just like those we look at in the KPL,” Nsimbe said as he sharpened his boys for the Meru sojourn.
The team warmed up to the Butterfly challenge with a 3-0 thrashing of National Super League side Ushuru FC, giving them a huge confidence boost after back-to-back Premier League losses.
Enroute to the last 16, Tusker were made to labor before beating National Super League side Palos FC 1-0 with Jackson Macharia scoring the lone goal. Macharia will not be available for this weekend’s tie alongside new signing Boniface Muchiri as they are away in Spain with the All-Star team.
Meanwhile, Sofapaka boss Sam Ssimbwa will be looking to guide Batoto ba Mungu to their fourth ever Shield title, having won it in 2007, 2010 when he was partly in charge and 2014.
But their quest will come under a huge obstacle in the name of Kariobangi Sharks. The Premier league new boys have not lost a league match since April 22 when they suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Posta Rangers.
With head coach William Muluya underlining they will be seeking an improvement to their performance from last season, Sharks are angling for nothing short of a win against Sofapaka.
“It will be a very tough match because Sofapaka is doing well currently and we are also doing well. I expect a tough and entertaining game but just like any other coach, my aim is to do better than the last time,” he said.
“But our strategy is taking a game at a time. At the moment our focus is on Sofapaka and getting a win off that match,” the tactician further outlined.
In the tough tie, Muluya will miss three of his key players; Midfielder Patillah Omotto and winger Ovellah Ochieng who are in Spain with the All-Star team while left back Bolton Omwenga is out with a knee injury.
But he is not disturbed an inch.
“We have a very good squad with enough depth. We will definitely find cover for them. It cannot be an excuse not to do our best against Sofapaka,” Muluya affirmed.
-Bandari host Nakumatt-
In Mombasa, history-seeking Paul Nkata who eliminated 10-time champions Gor Mahia in the last round will be taking on Nakumatt, well aware the Nairobi-based side will come in with all venom. Bandari beat Nakumatt 4-2 in the final of the 2015 tournament.
“That is in the past and I don’t think it will have an effect in the game on Saturday. Nakumatt is a very tough team and we can’t afford to get into the match with a relaxed mind. We have to fight for every piece of the field and hopefully pick a win,” Nkata noted.
The Ugandan tactician, winner of the title last year with Tusker, is looking at being the first man in the history of the tournament to win the title back-to-back with two different teams. Nakumatt has already travelled to Mombasa this season, losing 1-0.
In other eye-catching fixtures Sony and Nzoia will duel in a sugar-belt derby of sorts at the Awendo Stadium. Sony eliminated last year’s finalists Ulinzi Stars in the last round and come with ounces of confidence against Nzoia.
Salim Babu is looking to guide Sony to their second ever major title which might be coming 11 years after they last won one, the Kenyan Premier League title in 2006.
Weekend GOtv Shield fixtures (kick off 3pm unless stated)
Saturday: Bandari v Nakumatt (Mbaraki Complex), SoNy Sugar v Nzoia Sugar (Awendo), Eldoret Youth v Savannah (2 pm), GFE 105 v Wazito FC (Kipchoge Keino Stadium Eldoret 4 pm), Tusker FC v Butterfly FC (Kinoru Stadium).
Sunday: Kakamega Homeboyz v Vihiga United (Mumias), Sofapaka v Kariobangi Sharks (Nyayo Stadium).