Emaciated Leopards open season against hot Tusker
Round one of the new Football Kenya Premier League (FKF-PL) season will see champions Tusker FC and arguably limping AFC Leopards face off, all eyes on the match pitting teams with sharply contradicting preparations for the campaign.
While Leopards has signed no new player after losing the ones who anchored the team in the 2020/21 season, Tusker have bolstered their squad immensely not only for the title defence but also for the continental assignment.
Although Leopards assistant coach Tom Juma recently told Citizen Digital they are not “desperate” and will work with the available players, Tusker could expose their troubles yet to reach the public in their quiet preseason.
Barred to sign any player for failing to pay former players and coaches who have sued them, Leopards will have to field part of their youth team but Juma is unbowed.
“The players we have promoted from the youth team have got what it takes to compete at the top level. We begin the season with the objective to win the title the current issues notwithstanding,” he said, noting Tusker will be a tough opponent to start with but are under no pressure.
Key players who have ditched Ingwe from last season’s squad are Elvis Rupia, Collins Shichnje, Clyde Senaji, Hansel Ochieng, Benjamin Ochan, John Oyemba, Robinson Kamura among others.
Tusker head coach Robert Matano is smiling looking at the depth he has, after signing Ibrahim Joshua, Karlos Kirenge, Charles Momanyi, Shami Kibwana, Patrick Matasi, Brian Bwire, Daniel Sakari, Senaji among others, while retaining the best of his last season’s team.
“We want to defend the title. We want to win everything possible. The players we have signed are settling in well and we expect everyone to play their part in all the competitions we feature in,” Matano said.
Tusker never rested after the conclusion of last season, and are already enjoying the momentum they have built in the CAF Champions League matches, having eliminated Djibouti side Arta Solar 7 on 4-1 aggregate.
The Ruaraka brewers also warmed up for Leopards season opener with FKF Super Cup win over Gor Mahia on Wednesday at the Thika Stadium where they will also play Ingwe.
Debutants Talanta FC, Kenya Police and Vihiga Bullets will also be in action this weekend, against Wazito FC, Kakamega Homeboyz and Bidco United respectively in their maiden matches of the Premier League.
KCB who were second last season will take on record champions Gor Mahia, while Bandari FC, third place finishers will host Mathare United at the Mbaraki Sports Club.
Full round one fixtures:
Posta Rangers vs Kariobangi Sharks – Thika Stadium
Gor Mahia vs KCB FC – Thika Stadium
Vihiga Bullets vs Bidco United – Bukhungu Stadium
Bandari FC vs Mathare United – Mbaraki Stadium
Talanta FC vs Wazito FC – Ruaraka Grounds
Sofapaka FC vs Nairobi City Stars – Ruaraka Grounds
AFC Leopards vs Tusker FC – Thika Stadium
Ulinzi Stars vs Nzoia Sugar – ASK Grounds
Kakamega Homeboyz vs Police FC – Bukhungu Stadium