NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 8 – Gor Mahia head coach Hassan Oktay has warned his side that Saturday afternoon’s Mashemeji Derby against arch rivals AFC Leopards will not be an easy affair despite Ingwe’s current limping form.
AFC have won only twice in 12 games this season and have lost four of their last five to languish at 15th spot in the Kenyan Premier League standings. On the contrary, Gor are in fine form having won five of their last six games across all competitions.
“A derby does not respect anyone’s form. This is a different and huge game because for the fans also, it is very important. AFC might be doing badly now, but these are the kinds of games that teams want to win to turn over their results,” Oktay told Capital Sport.
Gor has also not lost against Leopards since 2016 and over the last 22 league meetings, the reigning league champions have won 12 and lost five, drawing a similar number.
K’Ogalo has dominated the last six matches winning five and drawing one. Last season, Gor won the first leg 2-1 and return leg 2-0 and odds are hugely stocked for them to carry the day against their rivals.
But despite all the stats lining up in their favor, Oktay says he will not be fooled to think it will be an easy assignment against a wounded Leopard.
“Our ambition remains the same, to continue winning and I think we are on the right track because we have been improving game by game. We won a big game against Zamalek and I think that really improved our confidence,” the tactician noted.
Gor warmed up for the derby with a 1-0 win over Vihiga United in midweek while AFC lost 2-1 to bottom side Mount Kenya United in Machakos same day.
Oktay believes it will all be down to confidence and mental strength and believes his side is well placed n that.
But, while he prepares for arguably the biggest game for the side in the season, Oktay will have most of his heart thinking about Wednesday’s away trip to Luanda, Angola for their CAF Confederations Cup second group match against Petro Atletico.
Having won against Zamalek last weekend, Oktay believes getting another good result on Wednesday especially away from home will be a good thing for his side’s ambition to make it to the knockout phases for the first time ever.
On this note, Oktay has hinted he will make some changes to his derby squad to preserve some of his key players for Wednesday.
“We cannot pretend that Wednesday is not important for us. If we can get three points away from home, that will be a huge thing for us. Of course we have to look at resting some players and we will need to rotate. But I am happy that we have a good squad and anyone is capable of playing any time,” the coach noted.
Among the players who will likely play a huge role in Saturday’s derby include defender Joash Onyango who was left out of both teams that played Zamalek and Vihiga while star striker Dennis Oliech might be handed a start for his first ever derby.
“We also have a few injuries here and there and we will look at the squad and see who will be fit for us. But we will have a strong team out,” the tactician stated.