NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 9- Mathare United head coach Francis Kimanzi wants consistency from his impressive side as they aim to keep their unbeaten start to the 2018 season intact with a potentially explosive tie against AFC Leopards on Saturday.
Kimanzi’s squad which has grown together from a young inexperienced side last season has won three and drawn two of their first five matches of the season sitting second in the standings and Kimanzi wants them to exhibit the same hunger against AFC.
“It is a very tough game against a very good opponent and definitely the plan always is to do better than you did last time. We have enjoyed a very good start to the season and if we can keep that consistency going on, I think the future is bright,” the tactician said ahead of the Saturday afternoon tie.
He adds that playing in a better surface at the Kenyatta Stadium will offer his team a bigger incentive to continue with their passing and movement philosophy especially having struggled to keep to their tact in last weekend’s tie against Thika United which ended 1-1.
“We have to keep working hard, keep working for each other and things will improve for us. This will be a very interesting game for us and hopefully we can once agin show that we are a good side,” the tactician further noted.
Matches between these two sides have been tight with half of their last 18 matches ending in draws. Mathare have a slight advantage having won five of the remaining nine fixtures and lost four.
Both last season’s matches ended in 0-0 draws while the previous two in 2016 ended 1-1 and in 2015 they played to 1-1 and 0-0 draws in both encounters. Mathare United was the last to enjoy victory in this fixture and it came in four years ago in 2014 when they won 2-1.
They had won 1-0 in the first leg of that season as well. AFC’s last victory against Mathare was in 2012 when they won 4-2.
Four points separate the two sides in the standings with Ingwe having played a match less.
The 13-time Kenyan Premier League champions will still be without suspended head coach Robert Matano with his assistant Dennis Kitambi tasked with leading them out for another match.
His first assignment last weekend ended in a 2-0 win away to Sony Sugar and the Tanzanian coach hopes he can keep the side winning to close in on the top four.
In the early kick off on Saturday at the same Kenyatta pitch in Machakos, another potentially explosive tie awaits when Kariobangi Sharks take on 2009 champions Sofapaka. The two sides drew 0-0 home and away in their first ever league meeting last year.
However, Batoto ba Mungu are still reeling from the 3-1 defeat inflicted on them by Sharks in the GOtv Shield semi-finals and they will be eager to land late revenge when they clash on Saturday.
The two lie side by side on the KPL log, Sofapaka at third with nine points while Sharks are fourth with eight.
Sofapaka assistant coach John Baraza, ahead of the meeting is cautious that it will be a very tough side.
“I think Sharks should be considered as title contenders because looking at their performance from last season, they have showed that they are a good side. This will be a very tough match for us,” Baraza noted.
Batoto ba Mungu have managed to stabilize their ship after a shaky start and the back to back wins over Posta Rangers and AFC Leopards have increased their confidence, with Baraza admitting they had taken time to gel.
“The teamwork has now come in and the players understand each other better. I am really impressed with how we are playing and people should watch out for us,” noted the former forward.
Meanwhile in other fixtures on Saturday, Thika United will be searching for their first win of the season when they face Tusker FC at the Ruaraka Complex, a side that has won only one match this season.
Thika has beaten the brewers in their last three encounters including home and away victories last season without conceding a goal. They won 2-0 in the first leg in Machakos and followed that up with a 1-0 win in Ruaraka.
Head coach Nicholas Muyoti is upbeat that his side can pick their fourth consecutive win over Sam Ssimbwa’s side.
“Just like us, they face the same challenge of rebuilding but for them, they have very experienced players who have been in the league before. We lost two key defenders at the end of last season while two others are injured which makes our consistency at the back a bit shaky,”
“But we have worked on that in training this week and we should be able to get something off that game,” Muyoti whose side has drawn three and lost two of their first five matches said.
Tusker’s Ssimbwa is looking to put his foot on the ground as his new look Tusker is yet to get its taste and the Thika match will be yet another test for him to go through. They lost last weekend against Ulinzi Stars and for a coach who seldom loses back to back, this will make for an interesting watch.
Kenyan Premier League weekend fixtures:
Saturday: Kariobangi Sharks v Sofapaka, Mathare United v AFC Leopards (Machakos), Kakamega Homeboyz v Ulinzi Stars (Bukhungu), Posta Rangers v Wazito (Narok), Tusker FC v Thika United (Ruaraka), Zoo Kericho v Vihiga United (Kericho).
Sunday: Bandari v Sony Sugar (Mombasa), Nakumatt v Chemelil, Gor Mahia v Nzoia Sugar (Machakos).