Kenya’s representatives in the CAF Champions League Gor Mahia and Kariobangi Sharks who are the country’s emissaries in the Confederations Cup have their work cut out in their respective first round first leg assignments at home this weekend.
Sharks face a herculean task when they face experienced Ghanaian side Asante Kotoko at Moi International Sports Centre (MISC) Kasarani on Saturday from 3 pm while Gor will come face to face with an unknown quantity in Lobi Stars of Nigeria at the same venue from 4 pm on Sunday.
The last time Kotoko played a Kenyan side was in 1985 when they were bundled out by AFC Leopards in the Africa Cup Winners Cup (now the Africa Champions League) 5-3 on post-match penalties after both teams had tied 2-2 in the first leg in Kumasi and Nairobi respectively.
Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge and one can safely allude that it is pretty hard to predict the winner of the Kotoko versus Sharks encounter.
However, it is pretty safe in equal measure to say that Kotoko has an edge over Sharks because they are perennial participants in Africa inter-clubs competitions and thus possess vast experience as compared to the Kenyan club that is making their maiden appearance in a continental event.
But after Sharks’ goal fest in the preliminary stage when they walloped Djibouti side Arta Solar 9-1 on aggregate, the team’s coach William Muluya believes his charges have the pedigree of giving Kotoko pound for pound and finally eliminate them.
“Obviously, Kotoko is a big name in African football but it would be extremely foolhardy of us to fear them. We’ll play our usual game and hopefully, we should get a result which will make the return match in Ghana a mere formality,” said Muluya.
For Sharks, their one-all draw with AFC Leopards in the league opener was least inspiring going into the continental fixture but Muluya feels this will not distract his players.
“A draw was hardly a good result going into the fixture but we have rectified our mistakes and fans should expect to see a very improved Sharks side. We’ll fight to the last man standing, he said.
For goals, Sharks are expected to lean heavily on lead striker George Abege assisted by Partillah Omotto.
In the meantime, Gor who merely scrapped through to the Africa Champions League after beating Nyasa Big Bullets of Malawi on post-match penalties have a lot in their hands when they stalk Lobi Stars.
For a lengthy time Nigerian clubs as well as the country’s national team Super eagles have been a hard nut to crack for Kenyan sides and this presents Gor with a grand oppportrunity to break the duck.
Leventis United was the last Nigerian team to prevail over their Kenyan opponents after outsmarting AFC Leopards in the semi finals of the Africa Champions League in 1985 and whether Gor has the capacity to avenge the defeat on behalf of their Mashemeji remains to be seen.
Gor stand-in coach Zedekiah “Zico” Otieno has urged his charges to stand up and be counted against the Nigerian and especially to cast away the spell of struggling against Big Bullets en-route to the first round.