NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 24 – Like the famous words from Lucky Dube’s renowned single ‘Nobody can stop reggae’ from the album Prisoner released in 1989, nobody can stop 16-time Kenyan Premier League champions Gor Mahia at this point of the season.
With seven matches to go before the season wraps, K’Ogalo need just a point to clinch their record breaking 17th title making them the most successful club in Kenyan football history.
AFC on their end are 20 points adrift their bitter rivals and coming into the clash, they will be fighting for bragging rights and probably, delaying Gor’s party to the title.
“Gor are champions already. Whether we delay them or not, it does not change their destiny,” AFC team manager Gilbert Selebwa said before adding; “This is a derby and we know how much pride it gives us and the supporters if we win. That is what we are going for.”
The first leg played just over a month ago ended 2-1 in favor of the green side of the divide, George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo’s well taken volley handing K’Ogalo maximum points.
This was the second meeting between the two sides having also met on May 1 in the SportPesa Hull City Challenge, Gor winning on penalties after a 0-0 stalemate in regulation time.
But when they meet on Saturday at the Kasarani Stadium, AFC will be gunning for revenge against the two losses.
“I respect Gor Mahia but we are AFC Leopards and obviously want to win. We have a huge commitment to our fans as a club and I also have a personal commitment to them. We will give it our best and fans should expect an exciting game. The first 20 minutes will be the key,” AFC head coach Rodolfo Zapata said.
The fans do not want their team to be the one rolling the red carpet for their arch rivals and watching them pop champagne and devour bones of meat in celebration of a league title right under their eyes.
In their quest though, Ingwe find themselves under-strength with up to seven first team players set to miss the match. Top scorer Ezekiel Odera will be serving the first of his two match ban having accumulated five yellow cards on top of a previous red card.
What is considered as their first choice defense line is entirely out with injury. Central defenders Salim Abdallah and Robinson Kamura as well as wingbacks Dennis Sikhayi and Moses Mburu are all out.
Midfielders Marvin Nabwire and Jaffery Owiti will also miss the tie with injury.
While AFC will miss top players by virtue of injury, if Gor will miss players then it will be by virtue of choice. They will be playing that game on Saturday, but their hearts mind and soul are in their CAF Confederations Cup crunch tie against USM Alger in Algiers on Wednesday.
Head coach Dylan Kerr played his second string squad against a full strength Sofapaka squad on Wednesday and surprisingly got a massive 3-0 result. Will he take the gamble again having played the first team in the first leg?
“I don’t know honestly because we’ve got a massive game on Wednesday in Algeria. The squad that played against Sofapaka showed that they really want to play and that gives me a headache for Saturday. We will see who is fit and who is fresh then make a decision,” the tactician noted.
He will have the services of keeper Boniface Oluoch back with the shot stopper having returned to first team training having recovered from a shoulder injury. The only absentee will be Ephraim Guikan who is yet to recover from a nasty knock he sustained in their game against Chemelil Sugar.
Kerr has insisted they will treat the game with utmost seriousness, saying they not only to wrap up their league campaign but also carry the bragging rights from the derby.
“It’s a massive game for the players and supporters and we want to win. Regardless of the squad that will go out, I know we can win. The team that played in the Hull Challenge was different and we won. I trust these players and all have shown they are equal to the task,” Kerr noted.
He added; “We respect AFC a lot because they are a decent team and we know it will be a tough game.”
Both teams are on a run of four straight wins. Over their last 21 meetings across all competitions, Gor have the upper hand having won 11 of those meetings and picked draws in five, losing a similar number.
The last time Ingwe won against their arch rivals was in March 2016 when they won by a solitary goal with Lamine Diallo stepping off the bench to score a late winner at Kasarani.