Relegation fight highlights KPL homestretch

By alex wafula
Oct 31, 2017
  • Mathare United’s Edward Seda battles for possession against Kakamega Homeboyz’ Erick Ambunya in a previous match. They face Sofapaka on Wednesday. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Sofapaka who were on the verge of relegation last season are second in the league. (SNA. File Photo)

With the fight for the Kenyan Premier League title already decided, the focus for the final four games of the season will boil down to a fight for survival and top eight places.

KPL and the Football Kenya Federation are yet to decide on the promotion/relegation criteria although it is certain that the bottom two teams will be relegated.

FKF also say that the 16th-placed team will tackle the third-placed team from the National Super League in a play-off.

At the moment, Western Stima, Thika United and Muhoroni Youth occupy the bottom three slots. Above them, Nakumatt, Zoo Kericho and Mathare United are in danger of slipping into that red zone.

Mathare United, 15th on the standings with 31 points, same as 16th-placed Western Stima but with a better goal difference.

Francis Kimanzi’s men will be be taking on Sofapaka at the Narok Stadium. They need three points to be safe.

Matahre United who have won only one match from their last five will come up against a side who beat them 2-1 in the first leg.

“At this stage of the league, every game is tough. We can’t afford to drop points. I am not worried that we will be relegated, but we just need to get those points,” Kimanzi said.

History will be stacked against the Slum Boys as of their 17 league meetings, Mathare has managed to win only thrice while losing nine times.

Their last win over Sofapaka was a 5-2 victory in the first leg of last season when the 2009 champions were struggling. A win will take his side to 34 points, but still stuck at 15th.

Second spot

Sofapaka are fighting for a top two finish. Ssimbwa had hoped to fight for the title which is already in Gor Mahia’s custody.

“It is not easy to play these teams fighting relegation and I know against Mathare, it will be one of our toughest matches,” the Ugandan tactician acknowledged.

They will miss the services of top scorer Umaru Kassumba who is injured. The Ugandan forward was in contention for the golden boot. He is joint top at the moment with 12 goals.

Meanwhile, 16th-placed Western Stima will be gunning for maximum points against the league leaders K’Ogalo in Nairobi.

With three points against Gor, they will move above Mathare United if the slum boys fail to win in Narok. Western Stima won the first leg in Kisumu 2-1, a victory that was only their third since 2009.

The dynamics will be different seven months later. Gor already have the league wrapped up, but coach Dylan Kerr has already set new targets for them.

“I want us to win all these four remaining matches. We want to make history by winning the league with the highest points haul and also the biggest difference to the number two team,” Kerr stated.

He admits it is hard to motivate the team further with the league already in the bag.

Jacques Tuyisenge and Meddie Kagere will seek individual honors in this match, the golden boot race with Tuyisenge scoring 12 so far while Kagere has 11.

Tuyisenge who joined Gor Mahia at the beginning of last season from Rwandese side Police is confident he can pick the accolade and has set a 15-goal target.

Elsewhere, Thika United have a big task of moving off the relegation zone. They are 17th with 29 points.

A win, coupled by a drop in points by both Western Stima and Mathare United will see them off the red zone. They tackle SoNy Sugar at Thika Sub-County Stadium.

Coach Nicholas Muyoti knows time is running out for his charges and is keen to survive the chop.

Return of Chibueze

Thika United have picked four draws and won one of their last five matches. “Our forward line has been a bit shaky over the past few matches and that is one of the things we have worked on. I am happy with the return of Chibueze (Onwudi). His return gives us options. If only we can convert half our chances, we will be safe,” the tactician said.

Bottom-placed Muhoroni Youth will be at home to Bandari FC, although their relegation goose appeared to have been cooked.

The sugar-belt side with a match in hand are six points away from safety and have won only one of their last five league matches.

They come up against a resurgent Bandari side who picked up a priceless win against Nakumatt in Nairobi after a run of five losses.

Paul Nkata, the Bandari FC coach will be returning to the field that brought him out into the limelight, having helped Muhoroni Youth survive relegation when he joined them in 2015.

His return there might have an opposite effect because a win against his old side will drag them deeper into relegation.

Bandari have been unconvincing this season and Nkata hopes to make a case for himself in the last four games with pressure mounting after a below expectation performance.

The dockers are 10th and gunning for a top eight finish.

KPL midweek fixtures (All matches kick off 3 p.m. unless stated)

Posta Rangers v Kakamega Homeboyz (2 p.m.), Sofapaka v Mathare United (4 p.m.- Narok Stadium), Chemelil Sugar v Tusker FC (Chemelil Complex), Gor Mahia v Western Stima (Kasarani Stadium), Muhoroni v Bandari FC (Muhoroni), Nakumatt v Zoo Kericho (Ruaraka Complex), Nzoia Sugar v AFC Leopards (Mumias Complex), Ulinzi Stars v Kariobangi Sharks (Afraha Stadium), Thika United v SoNy Sugar (Thika Sub-County Stadium).