Leopards hope to break Defence in continental cup

By nesta kizito
Feb 09, 2021
  • AFC Leopards players train at the Nyayo National Stadium.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

AFC Leopards will make a return to continental football after a three-year hiatus when they take on Defence of Ethiopia on Sunday afternoon in Nairobi.

The two teams will clash in the preliminary round of the Caf Confederations Cup tie at the Nyayo National Stadium. Leopards’ last appearance on the continent was back in 2010 when they represented Kenya in the same tournament.

Back then, Ingwe’s campaign ended prematurely when they failed to defend a 3-1 home win over another Ethiopian side, Banks, who turned the tables on then with a 3-0 drabbing in Addis Ababa.

Leopards, like the Kenya’s other flag bearers this year, Gor Mahia, have not had an eventful preseason. In December 2013, the team had a horrendous outing in Zanzibar falling out at the group stage of the annual Mapinduzi Cup.

Then last weekend the team had the worst possible rehearsal for their continental duties exiting the Kenya Power Charity Cup in embarrassing fashion, thanks to Mathare United.

But after signing heavily in the close season, coach James Nandwa believes his charges will confound their critics when they take on Defence.

“My players know what it means to play at this level and more importantly, what is required of them. We need to harness a first leg advantage to be safe,” the coach said earlier on Saturday.

Something special

And after watching their ‘in-laws’ Gor Mahia battling to a labored 1-0 win over US Bitam in an African Champions League match on Saturday at Nyayo Stadium, Leopards will be under pressure to give their fans something extra special to cheer about.

However, the match could yet prove to turn out into a banana skin encounter as was the case against Banks four years ago.

But Leopards’ main source of motivation, other than the twelfth man, will be their perceived strength-in-depth following the arrival of 12 new players at a staggering cost of Sh 1 million during the January transfer window.

In their spending spree, Ingwe went for the tried at tested. The experience of the likes of former Tusker skipper Joseph Shikokoti, James Situma, formerly the captain of Sofapaka, goalkeeper Wycliffe Kasaya and former KCB man Jacob Keli will certainly bolster a squad that already has a strong spine.

And although lead striker Allan Wanga and centre back Anthony ‘Modo’ Kimani have been ruled out of the match, Nandwa has other options in Noah Wafula and Paul Were upfront and Edwin Wafula and Juma Abdallah at the back.

Nandwa’s task will be to activate this deadly-looking arsenal and break down Defence with a scoring margin that will make their trip to Addis Ababa feel more like a ‘working holiday’.