Clubs grapple with fatigue as midweek fixtures beckon

By alex wafula
May 09, 2017
  • Mathare United coach Francis Kimanzi returns after a four-match suspension to lead the team against Kariobangi Sharks. (SNA File Photo)

  • Kakamega Homeboyz have a punishing traveling fixture which has prompted their coach Mike Mururi to urge KPL management to revise the fixtures. (SNA. File Photo)

  • Stewart Hall and Marcelo Ferreira have different missions in the midweek matches after the Mashemeji Derby. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Less than 72 hours after playing weekend games, Kenyan Premier League action will be back in midweek with clubs grappling on the reality of fatigue.

This week, they will be faced with a tight fixture schedule as they will be playing three games within one week in the midst of traveling.

One club that will find itself hugely affected will be Kakamega Homeboyz. They traveled to Nairobi, played two tough fixtures against Nakumatt on Monday then faced Tusker five days later on Saturday.

They traveled back to Kakamega and will be facing Western Stima on Wednesday before taking another daunting trip to Thika where they will tackle Thika United.

“It is beginning to take a toll on us because the matches are quite tough and we have to travel long distances. I would think if the fixtures were planned in a better way such that we don’t have to do so much back and forth it would have helped us a bit,” Mike Mururi, the Kakamega Homeboyz coach explained.

He added: “Now we will have to look at ways of surviving. We need to re-look into our training schedule, look at more hydration for the players and a better diet because if we are not careful, we will burn out.”

Defending champions Tusker will also be faced with a traveling itinerary, playing Zoo Kericho away in Kericho before returning home to host Sony Sugar.

Skipper James Situma has suggested to the coaching team to ease out the burden by regulating the training sessions.

“As players it is very tough managing all these tough games. It is now up to the coaches to look at sessions and work on reducing intensity especially close to match day to avoid burn out,” Situma told Sports News Arena.

Playing for points

But even as they continue working on ways to mitigate the effects of the tough run of fixtures, clubs will have in mind their fight for points with Tusker especially looking to get themselves back to the top.

The alemen have won thrice in a row and are fifth, six points behind the leaders Posta Rangers after recovering from a poor start.

They face a tricky Zoo Kericho side that has claimed the scalps of Kenyan Premier League big boys, Ulinzi Stars and Western Stima.

George ‘Best’ Nsimbe has urged his side not to be complacent to avoid a flattening like the one experienced on day one of the season when they lost 5-2 to Zoo Kericho.

“The same way we prepare to face Gor Mahia is the same way we should take Zoo. They are a good side and we can’t afford to take them lightly,” Nsimbe said of the Premier League newcomers.

Zoo Kericho hope for a first win infront of their home fans after a poor start, the last being a 3-0 loss to Sofapaka.

Coach Sammy Okoth is beaming with confidence that his side becoming battle hardened in the Premier League. He hinted Tusker could be their next victims.

AFC Leopards hope to bounce back

Elsewhere, AFC Leopards hope to bounce back from their poor outing in the Mashemeji Derby on Sunday when they play against Sony Sugar at the Awendo Stadium.

Stewart Hall, the AFC coach was critical of his players after the loss to Gor Mahia.

“I know they have the quality. The only thing they can do is show a different performance. This is behind us now and we focus on what we can do against Sony,” the Briton said.

Sony have also not been performing well and have lost four of their last five matches.

Coach Salim Babu has urged his players to raise their standards to avoid another relegation dogfight like it happened last season.

As AFC Leopards battle with Sony in Awendo, their arch-nemesis Gor Mahia will be at the Thika Stadium taking play against Chemelil Sugar.

K’Ogalo could make the most of any potential slip up by Posta Rangers and move top. But they will find it tough coming up against the second best defense in the league.

The sugar millers who are seventh with 14 points have only conceded three goals this season but won only one of their last five games with the remaining four ending in draws.

It will be an interesting tie with the second best defense coming up against the league’s highest scoring side. Gor have scored 13 goals in nine matches.

Ferreira expected to rotate squad

Jose Marcelo Ferreira, the Gor coach will be expected to rotate his squad with the likes of Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza set to get playing time after sitting out the entire game against AFC Leopards.

George Odhiambo might also not start after limping off the Mashemeji Derby with injury.

In other fixtures, after rising from back to back losses, Ulinzi Stars will be at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos taking on Sofapaka.

Ulinzi were 3-2 winners against Thika United over the weekend with Stephen Waruru scoring a brace to move to the apex of the top-scorers’ chart after nine games.

Sofapaka come into this fixture on the backdrop of a 1-0 loss at the hands of league leaders Posta Rangers.

The two teams are third and fourth on the KPL log and with Ulinzi having won both of last season’s fixtures.

“Sofapaka are a different team this season. They are stronger with very experienced players and a good coach. I know it will be a tough tie but we should go there and continue with where we stopped against Thika,” Benjamin Nyangweso, the Ulinzi Stars coach said.

Batoto ba Mungu will be looking for a response to maintain their status in the top four, something that is close to coach Sam Ssimbwa’s ambition. A win will see them swap places with Ulinzi at third.

Kariobangi Sharks and Mathare 'derby'

Arguably, the big fixture of the midweek pile will be on Tuesday when Kariobangi Sharks and Mathare United meet at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos in what is considered to be a derby of sorts.

The two teams share similarities in terms of playing style and philosophies while most of the players are products of the famous Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) set up.

William Muluya, the Kariobangi Sharks coach is a product of MYSA and was propelled into the coaching world by both Francis Kimanzi and Salim Ali who are instructors at the Mathare Academy.

Before joining Kariobangi Sharks in June last year, Muluya was the Mathare team manager.

“It is a special fixture because I have a lot of respect for Mathare. I expect it to be an interesting fixture,” Muluya said.

Salim Ali, the Mathare assistant coach also expects a tough tie, saying it will be made tougher as players from both sides know each other well. But he maintains his side will be gunning to bounce back after losing to Bandari FC last Friday.

The side will welcome back Francis Kimanzi from his four-match suspension. His mojo could be an added incentive to ride back to winning ways and move from the bottom half of the table.

KPL Midweek fixtures- (All fixtures 3 p.m.)

Tuesday: Mathare United v Kariobangi Sharks (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos).

Wednesday: Bandari v Nzoia United (Mbaraki, Mombasa), Gor Mahia v Chemelil Sugar (Thika Stadium), Kakamega Homeboyz v Western Stima (Mumias), Muhoroni Youth v Posta Rangers (Muhoroni), Nakumatt v Thika United (Ruaraka), Sofapaka v Ulinzi Stars (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos), Sony Sugar v AFC Leopards (Awendo), Zoo Kericho v Tusker FC (Kericho Green Stadium).