NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 1 – League leaders Bandari FC clash against Mathare United at their Mbaraki Complex stable in Mombasa this weekend in the top of the table clash that will be the highlight of the Kenyan premier League match week 16.
The dockers lead the standings with 31 points, two ahead of Mathare United who picked up steam after a five-match lull, and basing on the form of the two sides, this promises to be a cracker of a match down at the coast.
Bandari boss Bernard Mwalala has already warned Mathare they are meeting up with a highly charged and confident team and says his boys are eager to retain their hold on the number one spot for at least one more week.
“The run we have had has really helped in pushing the confidence of the players up. The belief is there and they know they have the ability to win and challenge for the title. We lost against Homeboyz but the response from the team has been immense,” Mwalala noted.
Bandari saw their unbeaten start to the season halted with a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Homeboyz in Kakamega, but they have made some heavy statement of response with four wins and a draw in their last five games to scale to the summit of the standings.
This, is despite the fact they have had to constantly rotate the squad due to injuries.
“I have had players who are always hungry to step up and those who have come in when our first team players were injured have done an exceptional job. I am happy with the depth we have and it shows we are a team and not reliant on individuals,” Mwalala opined.
History hugely favors Mathare in this tie. Bandari has beaten the slum boys only once in 16 league meetings, and that was in 2017 when they won 1-0 in Nairobi.
Mathare has won seven of the 16 meetings, four of them in Mombasa while eight ended in draws, five of them in the tourist city.
Despite the bleak history with Mathare, Mwalala still beams with some confidence his side can pick up all three points.
“We know we are facing a very good team with talented players and an equally good technical bench and we know it’s not going to be easy. But we are ready and we want to get a win at home,” the tactician affirmed.
Mathare bounced back from their hot and cold run with a late show against AFC Leopards, winning 2-0 with goals scored in the final five minutes.
The slum boys, early league pacesetters, look to bounce back to the top as three points will lift them above Bandari with head coach Francis Kimanzi clearly stating his side want to be a league chasing force.
-AFC Leopards seek western delight-
Meanwhile, under fire AFC Leopards look to be turning back to the spirit of their ancestors to try and lift the side off the bottom of the pile as they moved their clash against Sony Sugar to the Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega.
The match was initially set for the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos, but with a pathetic run of six consecutive losses, a change in environment, and most specifically to an area they enjoy unwavering support, was inevitable.
New boss Cassa Mbungo is yet to celebrate victory for Ingwe since joining in after the sacking of Marko Vasiljevic and worse is that under his tenure, the team has only scored once, in the 2-1 defeat to Mount Kenya United.
The club’s defensive record has also been one to forget as in the six losses, they have shipped in 12 goals, an average of two per game.
They come up against a Sony Sugar side that sits seventh in the standings and beaming with confidence after back to back wins including their last assignment at home against Western Stima where they won 4-0.
But history favors Ingwe who have beaten Sony 10 times in their last 20 league meetings, and they also won both home and away ties last season without conceding a goal.
Leopards desperately need victory to move off the basement and a win will take them up max to 15th if Vihiga, Mount Kenya United and Zoo Kericho all lose.
-Sofapaka look to bounce back-
On Sunday, 2009 champions Sofapaka who saw their run of wins halted by Gor Mahia will look to bounce back to winning ways when they host KCB in Machakos.
Sofapaka lost 1-0 to Gor in Nakuru then followed that up with a 2-2 draw away to Kakamega Homeboyz last weekend, Brian Magonya rescuing a point with a thunderous 92nd minute goal.
Head coach John Baraza who looks to guide the team to the title this season has warned his side that a further drop in points will see them lose pace with the leaders and has urged his charges to go for maximum points against the bankers.
“The good thing is that in those two matches we have been playing well just that sometimes results don’t come. But our morale is not affected at all. We have to keep fighting and in training I have been happy with what I have seen with the players,” Baraza said.
He added; “KCB is a very good team with quality young players and we know it will be tough for us. But we are ready for the tie and hopefully luck is on our side and we win. Our target is to finish the first leg within the top three at least.”
Sofapaka are fifth in the standings with 24 points and victory will see them jump to fourth if Tusker FC fail to win away to Nzoia Sugar.
KPL weekend fixtures (All games 3pm)
Saturday: Kariobangi Sharks v Chemelil Sugar (Kasarani), Mount Kenya United v Homeboyz (Machakos), Bandari v Mathare United (Mombasa), AFC Leopards v Sony Sugar (Bukhungu), Nzoia Sugar v Tusker (Bungoma), Western Stima v Vihiga United (Kisumu)
Sunday: Sofapaka v KCB (Machakos), Zoo Kericho v Posta Rangers (Kericho)