Harambee Stars play their final friendly build-up match against DR Congo in Madrid, Spain on Saturday night before winding up their training camp in Paris, France on Wednesday then head straight to Egypt for the start of the 32nd edition of Africa Cup of Nations.
Coach Sebastian Migne hopes to complete the final pieces of his pre-tournament jigsaw puzzle in Madrid after weeks of preparation. While the French tactician seeks to be cautious in his approach to the game to avoid more injuries, Migne’s fielding will hint at his preference of a starting team in Cairo when Kenya takes on tournament favorites Algeria in their opening match on 23rd June.
The team has already lost central defender Brian Mandela and attacking midfielder Christopher Mbamba to injuries and Migne’s plans could be greatly hampered should more afflictions occur. DR Congo’s build-up match became a fallback plan after Kenya’s preferred opponents Gambia opted out of the international friendly.
Saturday night’s tie holds little in tactical gains for Kenya ahead of the Cup of Nations as opposed to the minefield Gambia presented. DR Congo have not played any of Kenya’s group opponents in the recent past and Migne only hopes to gauge his team’s fitness and cohesion on the pitch.
The team coached by Florent Ibenge boasts of numerous stars who can test the mettle of any team bidding to make a mark on the continent’s premier football platform. Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga, Everton’s Yannick Bolasie, Cedric Bakambu of Beijing Guoan lead DR Congo’s attack backed up by a stellar midfield comprising Chancel Mbamba of Porto, Jacques Maghoma of Birmingham and TP Mazembe’s Tresor Mputu.
Such quality offers a good test for Migne’s squad and ability to cope with great attacking flair expected from Group C opponents Algeria, Tanzania and Senegal. Kenya has won her last three meetings with Congo, all of which were friendly matches. Congo qualified to the Afcon finals having finished second behind Zimbabwe in a group that also had Congo Brazzaville and Liberia.
Migne will test his new central defensive partnership and attacking formation after the initial tinkering on June 7 against Madagascar. “The players are working hard and every day they show me that they are ready.
I came here with some questions over a number of players and formations but now everything has gone according to plan. I hope we don’t lose anyone to injury because the players we have here are already presented to CAF and registered. It will also spoil the mood that is so good in camp,” the Frenchman said.
Striker Michael Olunga and wingers Paul Were and Ayub Timbe are likely to be given a start in Madrid with skipper Victor Wanyama (pictured) starting in a midfield partnership with Dennis Odhiambo or Ismael Gonzalez.
Timbe and Were are coming from injuries and Migne will be keen to measure their performance. Defensively, Musa Mohammed who had a knock last week could partner Joash Onyango if fit while Patrick Matasi will be between the sticks.