Where will the “Mashemeji derby” pitting arch-rivals Gor Mahia against AFC Leopards be won?
The two most successful football clubs in the country square it out Sunday n a tight Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League match at the Moi Sports Centre (MISC) Kasarani at 3pm.
Gor have won the league title an enviable 19 times and Leopards are 13-time champions. Of the 88 times that the teams have clashed, Gor have won 30 times, Leopards 27 times and the sides have drawn in 31 matches.
A match between the two giants is usually a cliffhanger. For the first time, the derby will be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus protocols. Gor and AFC’s legion of diehard fans will be TV spectators.
Today’s derby will be bereft of the fanfare that punctuates a game of this kind which is usually the talk of town days before match day and long after the dust settles down.
There will be no frienzied singing and dancing by K’Ogalo and Ingwe fans on their way to the match venue. The virus has severely muted the grandstanding and taunting that proceeds the derby.
This time round, AFC Leopards go into the most anticipated fixture above Gor in the league standings. The “big cats” are fourth on the log with 18 points, three above defending champions K’Ogalo who are in an unfamiliar territory in sixth place.
Since the season began, the Gor camp has been restless. They have not found their rhythm with the league well into the 11th round.
Both AFC coach Anthony “Modo” Kimani and his Gor counterpart Portuguese Carlos Manuel Vaz Pinto will have to unleash their best tactical strength to outdo each other in the tricky tie.
This season, Leopards have been on fire. Lethal striker Elvis “Machapo”Rupia has scored 10 goals.
He has only failed to score during Leopards’ 2-0 loss against Western Stima on December 18 and in their 1-0 defeat to money bags Wazito. The burly striker, who is in the gunning for the Golden Boot Award, is just two goals shy of league top scorer Kariobangi Sharks’ Eric Kapaito.
In the majority of Leopards’ games, Kimani opts to field Rupia as the sole striker. But unsung heroes Burundian winger Bienvenue Shaka and midfield maestro Austin Odhiambo have played big roles in the goals Rupia has netted.
The two have been instrumental in containing opponents and creating space for Rupia whose goals come from close range shots at the edge of the box.
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K’Ogalo, on the other hand, have had a blunt attack. So far, Burundian Jules Ulimwengu is the club’s top scorer with four goals.
Ugandan striker Tito Okello has been wasteful but Samuel Onyango has made good effort in a number of games.
Vaz Pinto may opt to field on fire Nicholas Kipkirui upfront. The former Zoo Kericho striker came in the dying minutes to score a stunning win for Gor in the CAF Champions League preliminary round against APR of Rwanda last month.
New acquisition Brazilian striker Wilson Silva Fonseca, who joined Gor on a two-year contract, is likely to make his debut.
K’Ogalo’s other worry is in the defence as Michael Apudo, Andrew “Roma” Juma and Joachim Oluoch have not been convincing with Philemon Otieno and Charles Momanyi showing average performance.
However, captain Kenneth Muguna has been inspirational in the midfield, providing 11 assists in Gor’s 17 goals this league this season.
AFC coach Kimani is confident that Ingwe will break the jinx after failing to beat Gor in the past four seasons.
Gor Mahia coach Vaz Pinto said the club’s preparations have been top-notch.