Battle lines are drawn as AFC Leopards host sworn rivals Gor Mahia in a potentially explosive Mashemeji Derby at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, on Sunday.
Fresh from their 4-0 demolition of Yanga of Tanzania in a CAF Confederation Cup match played at the same venue last Wednesday, Gor have a nine-point lead at the summit of the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) with four games in hand over second-placed Sofapaka.
On the other end, Leopards are fifth with 36 points having played 22 matches. However, Ingwe coach Rodolfo Zapata said his team is unfazed by the disadvantage in the league statistics as compared to Gor, adding that they hope to give the derby their best shot.
“We are very ready. A derby is won through team effort and I’m always positive. I respect Gor Mahia, but we have a rich history and they need to respect it too. I also strongly believe in my players,” said Zapata.
The Argentine tactician even had the audacity of saying that the team has recruited well to face any team worth its salt.
“The difference between average and superior performance in any club always comes back to the quality of the players hired. The Chairman (Dan Mule) has brought several young players and the target is to dominate the league in the near future,” said Zapata.
On the flip side, Leopards will miss the services of six key players as the big cats take battle to the high-riding K’ogalo.
Brian Marita, Dennis Sikhayi, Robinson Kamura, Saad Musa and Alex Oratamal couldn’t practice properly this week while team captain captain Duncan Otieno has accumulated five yellow cards and is thus ineligible.
In the meantime, Gor Mahia coach Dylan Kerr has also termed the derby as “important” and urged his players to treat it as such.
“The players are aware how important the derby is to the team and to the fans as well and they have to give it their all. Our opponents also know there are bragging rights in this one and I believe they are also looking to upset us. We will approach the match with the seriousness it deserves.” Kerr said.
Gor who have hit a rich vein of form are expected to use largely the squad that felled Yanga and among the players expected to be on parade include on-song Ivorian Ephraim Guikan, Innocent Wafula, Mustapha Francis, Haroun Shakava, Francis Kahata and Samuel Onyango.
Each VIP ticket for the match that kicks off at 3.00 pm will cost Sh 500 while a terrace ticket will be going for Sh 200. The match will be live on K24.