Tusker psyched to make emphatic Champions League return

James Situma #2 is mobbed by Tusker FC's teammates after putting his side ahead in their ...
James Situma #2 is mobbed by Tusker FC's teammates after putting his side ahead in their KPL clash against Sony Sugar on Saturday, May 20. PHOTO/www.sportpicha.com

Kenyan club champions Tusker FC are out to make a resounding return to continental action after a four-year hiatus when they host Madagascan giants, AS Port Luis in their first leg of their CAF Champions League preliminary round clash later Saturday in Nairobi.

The Brewers emerged from the shadows of three-peat winners and record league titleholders Gor Mahia to clinch the domestic double last season and earn a ticket to serve in the high table of African football since their last appearance in 2013.

Tusker who famously lost the defunct 1994 CAF African Cup Winners Cup final after DC Motema Pembe of DRC emerged from a 2-2 home leg draw to stun them 3-0 at home for a 5-2 victory on aggregate are keen to make inroads in the most lucrative continental cub showpiece this season.

Their last outing in the Champions League in 2013 was cut short in the first round when Egyptian giants and record winners Al Ahly crushed them 4-1 over two legs before they went on to win the title.

The 11-time national league titleholders had breezed through St. Michel United of Seychelles 7-1 on aggregate in the preliminary round and the new look side that signed nine new players and lost the double-winning coach, Ugandan Paul Nkata will be looking forward to such an outcome when they launch their 2017 bid against Port Luis.

Another Ugandan, George ‘Best’ Nsibe and Francis Baraza who led Kenyan Premier League rivals Chemelil Sugar to a record fifth finish last season were drafted in to pursue honours on five fronts including holding on to their national title, GOtv Shield domestic cup, KPL Top 8 knockout tournament, Cecafa Club Championships and the Champions League.

Tusker captain, James Situma is urging his side to make a statement by first qualifying for the next phase and thereafter, attempt to go as further forward as they can in the top African competition.

“The team has been preparing well for the new season we will take all the competitions with the seriousness they deserve. We will play one game at a time with full dedication from all of us and therefore, football fans should expect a more improved Tusker,” the veteran utility player said.

This will be the first competitive match for new coach Nsimbe after taking from his countryman Nkata who surprisingly left the Brewers for KPL challengers Bandari FC with Situma declaring they were adapting well to the new man’s tactics.

“The new coach is an amazing man and just like Nkata, they both come from the same country making it easy for the players to understand his philosophy. We are hoping to enjoy more success with him as it was with his predecessor,” the Kenyan international stressed.

The Brewers have been boosted by the return of midfielder Brian Osumba after a long term injury lay off that saw him miss the entire campaign last season with a broken leg.

The 2013 KPL Midfielder of the Year broke his leg in December 2015 in a motorcycle accident and spent the whole of the double winning campaign watching from the sidelines as he recovered.

“Osumba is a beast and having him back is a big boost to the team. He was missed big time last season and his comeback will give us more depth and quality in the team,” the Tusker skipper who was speaking to Citizen Digital emphasised.

Nsibe was delighted to have a fully fit squad to choose from despite being the first competitive game Tusker will feature in this year.

“Having had the boys in the residential camp for a week, we have managed to improve on our fitness levels and polished our tactics, I’m hoping for the best in Saturday’s match because our aim is always  to go  far in any competition,” Nsibe who set his side a target of reaching the money group stage emphasised.

Kenyans will be hoping for a quick fillip after their representatives in the CAF Confederations Cup, Ulinzi Stars fell to a slim 1-0 first leg deficit to Al Hilal of Libya in a clash played in Cairo, Egypt due to the volatile state of the war torn North African State.

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Story By John Kyanda
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