NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 30 – Fresh from winning their maiden SportPesa Cup in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Kariobangi Sharks are thrown straight back into Kenyan Premier League action when they take on league leaders Mathare United at the Kasarani Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
Sharks arrived in the country on Monday evening and held a light session at their Utalii Ground base on Tuesday as they look to continue their form with victory against their ‘slum rivals’ Mathare United.
Striker Harrison Mwendwa who struck the decisive goal to beat Bandari 1-0 in last Sunday’s Cup final hopes the team can pick up from that point and ensure the good form continues even into the Premier League where they hope for a maiden title.
“We are now used to winning the Cup competitions and I think it is now time for us to try and win the league. We are motivated after winning in Dar es Salaam and now we bring all that hard work to the league,” Mwendwa told Capital Sport.
Sharks who are placed fifth in the KPL standings have also not lost this season same as Mathare, but the latter have picked up more wins and sit at the apex with 23 points, nine ahead of fifth placed Sharks.
Mathare only managed their first win over Sharks in the second leg of last season when they won 2-1, having picked a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
In 2017, Sharks beat Mathare 2-1 and 3-0 in the two meetings in their debut top flight season. With a side that is currently on a roll, Sharks know only too well it will be even tougher despite their motivation.
Mathare have dropped points only twice in nine matches and have won three matches on the trot, a run that has made coach Francis Kimanzi believe that they are in some good run and can challenge for the title.
“Mentally we are getting stronger and better. The race is still tough and the road is really long. But if you are at round nine with an almost perfect record you feel motivated as a team. We have a good record up to now, and if we can improve it the next two rounds will be better,” Kimanzi stated.
He comes up against his prodigy William Muluya who was his understudy at Mathare before he made the big leap to Sharks mid-2016, aiding them to earn promotion to the top tier.
Muluya has enjoyed instant success at Sharks and led them to their maiden title last year when they clinched the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Shield title. Will he add on a league title to his decorated hat?
Meanwhile, while Sharks battle Mathare at Kasarani, Bandari who they beat to the title in Dar will be at the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega taking on Homeboyz, a side in disarray just two days after their head coach Paul Nkata and his assistant were fired over claims of match fixing.
Veterans Allan Wanga and Dvaid Juma will handle the team on interim basis over the next two games as they look to steady the ship of a side that’s languishing at 13th in the standings with only two wins off nine matches.
Wanga, speaking to Capital Sport says their main aim is to stabilize the ship and get results before the side goes in for a permanent boss in the next few weeks.
“It is a tough challenge but the good thing is that we understand each other as teammates and we will work to see the team get results,” Wanga said as he looked on to Wednesday evening’s duel.
Bandari might be hugely affected by fatigue having taken the long trip from Mombasa to Kakamega, a distance of almost 850km.
But, the dockers will not be deterred as head coach Bernard Mwalala looks to ensure his unbeaten start to the new season remains intact.
Meetings between these two sides have always been close calls with only three goals scored over the last five matches played between them. Last season, Homeboyz won the first leg 1-0 in Kakamega before losing by a similar margin in the return tie in Mombasa.
Overall, Bandari carries the advantage in head to head over their last eight meetings, winning four and losing two while the remaining games ended in draws. Of the four wins, only one has been at Bukhungu, a 3-2 victory in March 2013.