AFC Leopards to look for bragging rights

AFC Leopards SC striker Kepha Aswani (lefts) celebrate scoring against Mathare United FC with teammate ...
AFC Leopards SC striker Kepha Aswani (lefts) celebrate scoring against Mathare United FC with teammate Allan Katerega during their Kenyan Premier League match at the Nyayo National stadium in Nairobi on July 15, 2016. The match ended 1-1. Photo/Stafford Ondego/www/

AFC Leopards will be looking for Western Region bragging rights when they take on a resilient Kakamega Homeboyz side in a Kenya Premier League (KPL) fixture christened as the ‘Cataluhya Derby’ on Sunday at the Mumias Complex.

The 12-time champions, whose rise in form has seen them pick 11 points from their last five, are ninth on the log and hope to leapfrog their hometown rivals placed at seventh.

Leopards Head Coach Ivan Minnaert believes his charges are ready for the derby with his attention solely focused on the game and not the sideshows that his opponents are busy starting.

“I have heard reports that Homeboyz are saying they will beat us 4-0 but I won’t indulge them, that’s just disrespectful and on my part I let my actions speak on the pitch.

“Last weekend we had a horrible first half where we let Ushuru punish us for our mistakes and we don’t want a repeat of that. We have aptly prepared for this match and we will be gunning for the three points on Sunday,” Minnaert underscored.

The Belgian tactician is however doubtful that recent acquisition Ghanaian striker Gilbert Fiamenyo will make his debut as he will not be fit enough for the tie.

“He is arriving any day from now and most likely he won’t be match fit but he will travel with the team to Mumias so he can gain that experience. In the last game Paul Kiongera was on the bench so you can understand how high the competition for places in the team is right now,” the former Rayon Sports coach added.

The KPL giants have come out on top in the clubs’ two previous meetings this year, winning 2-0 and 2-1.

Sofapaka Assistant Coach John Baraza is confident that his charges can avoid the drop after the club banished its 10 match winless streak last weekend with a 5-0 demolition of fellow relegation partners Nairobi City Stars.

The 2009 Kenya Premier League (KPL) champions, whose last win coincidentally came after they overcame a lackluster Stars side 1-0 back in April, narrowed the gap between them and the 15th placed team to just one point.

It had looked all gloom and doom for Batoto ba Mungu but the result reignited the club’s hope of remaining in the top tier with the tactician optimistic that this was just the beginning of good things to come.

“Despite the result the game was actually really tough and we’re hopeful that this is just the beginning and our fight to stay in the league starts here. Luck has not been our side in the past few games and finally our hard work in training can be seen,” the two-time golden boot winner told Citizen Digital.

“We are in a difficult situation at the moment so we are putting emphasis on our trainings and trying to approach each game differently. Everybody in the club right now believes we are going to avoid the drop and we are working hard in training to make sure that happens,” he added.

Baraza was standing in for Head Coach David Ouma who was out on assignment with the Harambee Starlets in Spain.

“At the beginning of the season we had a target but that changed after our disappointing performances in the first leg. We had planned to rely on the youth ranks to propel the team to the top but it backfired and we had to revert to using the experienced players.

“The club president has been supportive every step of the way and without him I don’t how we would have made it this far,” the former Harambee Stars international revealed.

The bottom paced club has never finished lower than fourth since they were promoted to the top tier in 2009 and now look to their next match against fellow strugglers Ushuru. The cash-stricken taxmen are placed 13th with a ten point advantage over Sofapaka.

Mathare United will be hoping to put an end to their five game winless streak when they come up against relegation placed City Stars.

The slum boys’ title charge has withered with Francis Kimanzi now under pressure from the likes of Chemelil Sugar and Ulinzi Stars who will not be lining up on the weekend.

Defending champions Gor Mahia will play Posta Rangers and head coach Jose ‘Ze Maria’ Ferreira will have another tough encounter as he tries to get his striking force firing on all cylinders.

Tusker FC who have won the title three times, their last being in 1993, will host sixth placed Western Stima as they look to extend their lead at the summit.


Weekend KPL fixtures:

Tusker FC vs. Western Stima

Muhoroni Youth FC vs. Thika United

Ushuru FC vs. Sofapaka

Nairobi City Stars vs.Mathare United

Kakamega Homeboyz vs. AFC Leopards

Posta Rangers vs. Gor Mahia


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Story By Eric Kagunda
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