NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 22 – Despite willowing in the relegation zone and carrying an embarrassing run of five consecutive league defeats, Mathare United head coach Francis Kimanzi has warned his charges that AFC Leopards should not be underrated when the two clash in Machakos tomorrow.
Mathare have themselves dropped points over the last five matches, drawing thrice and losing twice, but Kimanzi believes the AFC game can give them a decent launching pad to get back into winning ways.
“We are ready for that match because it’s one that motivates the players. Despite the fact that AFC have picked up fewer points, history favors every player to want to be in that game. We can’t look at the points they have, but we need to face the match like a cup final,” Kimanzi noted.
Over 20 meetings between the two sides, AFC have a slightly higher hand having won six times while Mathare have won five, the other nine ending in draws.
Last season, Leopards won both home and away legs, winning the first one 4-3 in a hugely entertaining encounter in Machakos and went on to pick a 2-1 result in the return tie.
The last time Mathare beat AFC was in July 2014 when they won 2-1.
Kimanzi though is optimistic he can quench a five year wait to beat Leopards and see the team move back to the apex of the standings especially if Bandari fail to bag maximum points against Nzoia Sugar in Mombasa.
The tactician has partly blamed his side’s drop in form to fatigue creeping in, but believes they are in a good position to bounce back after assessing their tactical weak areas.
“Most times you drop an action somewhere especially after 10 matches of real push. The levels drop because there is very minimal rotation when you don’t want to interfere with the growth of the players. It’s normal,”
“But we can’t just sit and say since it is normal things continue that way. We have made a lot of push to change and we want to make sure in the next coming matches we get back to where we were,” Kimanzi noted.
AFC leopards is a side under pressure after five consecutive losses and head coach Cassa Mbungo who is winless since taking charge of the club hopes he can resuscitate the wounded Leopards back to winning ways.
Meanwhile, on form Bandari will be at home against Nzoia Sugar, head coach Bernard Mwalala coming up against his former employers.
Bandari are in good form, their last weekend 1-0 win over Kariobangi Sharks in Nairobi lifting their spirits and their position in the standings as well. A win will guarantee the dockers top spot for at least another week and this is something that spurs them ahead of the visit by Nzoia.
The sugar millers travel to Mombasa on thebackdrop of their head coach Nicholas Muyoti ditching them for Kakamega Homeboyz and they hope the sudden shift in coaching does not affect their hunt.
Eleventh placed Nzoia have lost three matches on the trot and history does not favor them as they are yet to beat Bandari in Mombasa.
Elsewhere at the Bukhungu Stadium, Muyoti will be making his maiden bow in Homeboyz colors when he leads out his side to face Sofapaka.
Homeboyz have blown hot and cold and are ninth in the standings but their motivation was boosted with last weekend’s 1-0 away victory against Tusker in Ruaraka.
Sofapaka on the other hand were on a run of six wins in seven games, but the run was slowed down by a 1-0 loss to Gor Mahia last weekend. Nonetheless, head coach John Baraza is not worried as he looks to bounce back especially against his old buddy Muyoti.
“It is always good when you come up against your friend and buddy. I have known Muyoti for a long time and played with him too. He is a good coach and I expect a good game on Saturday. We are focused to bounce back and ensure that we maintain a small gap with the leaders,“ Baraza affirmed.
Baraza has already beaten Muyoti this season, Sofapaka winning 1-0 against Nzoia Sugar three weeks ago.
KPL WEEKEND FIXTURES:
Saturday: Posta Rangers v Ulinzi Stars, AFC Leopards v Mathare United (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos), Chemelil Sugar v KCB, Bandari v Nzoia Sugar (Mombasa), Kakamega Homeboyz v Sofapaka (Bukhungu)
Sunday: Vihiga United v Kariobangi Sharks (Bukhungu), Sony Sugar v Western Stima (Awendo), Mount Kenya United v Zoo Kericho (Machakos)