Leopards eye top spot as premier league enters week nine

By alex wafula
Apr 15, 2016
  • AFC Leopards coach Ivan Minnaert is angling for top spot in the league.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Gor Mahia players with their coach Marcelo 'Ze Maria' Ferreira.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

Ivan Minnaert, the AFC Leopards head coach believes he can drive the team to the SportPesa Premier league crown this season, but has urged his side to take on each match with a 100% energy.

The Belgian’s aim is to ensure Leopards finish the first leg within the top three slots and as he brings in new signings, he believes he will strengthen enough to challenge the big boys for the crown.

Leopards last won the league in 1998 but Minnaert holds on to faith that he is the right man to finally deliver the blue and white army into the promised land.

The side is currently placed third on the SportPesa Premier League standings with 17 points, same as the top two sides Tusker and Mathare United.

“We need to fight in each match, give our best and see that we are among the top three in June. At this moment, we don’t have so many options in every department but we have to ensure we use what we have and get results,” Minnaert told Sports News Arena.

Ingwe plays Ushuru FC on Sunday evening at the Nyayo National Stadium and Minnaert is expecting a tough duel from Ken Kenyatta’s men, having watched them frustrate Gor Mahia last weekend.

The tactician prepared his side for the duel with a friendly match against Kenya’s national Under-20 sides on Thursday evening, winning 2-1 courtesy of a brace from Lamin Diallo.

Leopard eyes top spot 

"Every team gives their 100% when they come to play Leopards. I expect a very tough game when we play against Ushuru because they are not easy opponents having watched them last weekend. But we need to work very hard throughout the match and get a result,” Minnaert opined.

These two teams have met four times in the league both sharing two wins each. Last season, the tax men won the first leg before Ingwe picked the pieces and won in the second leg, both 1-0 score-lines.

Leopards will go top of the standings if Tusker and Mathare United lose their matches.

Tusker will be facing Gor Mahia on Saturday at the Nyayo National Stadium in what is expected to be a cracker.

K’Ogalo is expected to welcome back striker Jacques Tuyisenge and winger Ronald Omino, both who missed last weekend’s draw with Ushuru and the firepower upfront is what they need to re-ignite their fight for the title.

Tusker face Gor 

Tuyisenge scored thrice in two consecutive league matches but was ruled out for a week after picking up an injury in the match against Thika, but he has managed to train and is available for selection on Saturday.

Brazilian coach Jose Marcello Ferreira is still unbeaten since taking over the club and will seek to continue the streak against a side that has always given the defending champions tough times.

Paul Nkata’s Tusker has lost only once this season and they have managed to pick 11 out of 15 points in the last five matches, an enviable record that has sped them onto the top of the standings.

The Ugandan tactician expects a tough match from Gor but says his team have their eyes fixed on keeping a winning run.

Gor are six points off the pace and will seek to bridge the gap to at least three by picking up a win at Tusker.

Elsewhere, Robert Matano’s Ulinzi Stars will hope to bounce back after picking their first loss of the season last weekend in Nairobi against Posta Rangers.

Ulinzi take on Mathare 

Ulinzi will be at home to second side Mathare United and they have been boosted with the return to fitness of winger Cliff Kasuti.

The 18-year old has missed the last two matches due to illness but managed to train since Wednesday. Matano decried his absence in the loss to Posta admitting they were beaten for pace and Kasuti’s absence injured their prospects.

Against a tactically disciplined Mathare, Matano hopes to find the key to unlock them and he maintains his side will bounce back.

At the same time, the KPL Under-20 tournament officially kicks off this weekend with four matches on the cards.

On Saturday, before Gor Mahia FC plays Tusker FC at the Nyayo Stadium, their junior side will face off with AFC Leopards in a mini Mashemeji derby in the early kick off at 12:30pm. There will be three matches at the Camp Toyoyo grounds, Posta Rangers taking on Chemelil Sugar, defending champions Western Stima will be up against Sofapaka while Mathare United will take on Tusker FC in the late kick off.

SPL Weekend fixtures Saturday; Tusker FC v Gor Mahia (Nyayo Stadium), Sony Sugar v Chemelil Sugar (Awendo), Muhoroni Youth v Western Stima (Muhoroni), Bandari FC v Posta Rangers (Mbaraki) Sunday: Ulinzi Stars v Mathare United (Afraha Stadium), Thika United v Nairobi City Stars (Thika County Stadium), Sofapaka v Kakamega Homeboyz, Ushuru v AFC Leopards (Nyayo Stadium)