Hall seeks derby bragging rights in Nzoia KPL showdown

AFC Leopards Head Coach Stewart Hall is confident his side will walk away with the derby bragging rights when they tackle Nzoia Sugar in the highlight of the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) weekend action.

The unavailability of the Nyayo National Stadium means the Leopards will use the Kenyatta Stadium as their alternative home venue and will be seeking a second straight win after launching their 2017 season with an emphatic 3-0 win over Nakumatt FC.

Perhaps surprising is that defending champions Tusker FC sit rock bottom, joint on zero points with newbies Nakumatt, Zoo Kericho FC and Kariobangi Sharks who are struggling to cope with the top flight’s level of competition.

Early table-toppers Gor Mahia have the chance to extend their 100 percent winning start when they visit Western Stima, the club they robbed of their finest player last season and who has hit the ground running at K’Ogalo.

Kenneth Muguna, the 2016 KPL Most Valuable Player of the Year, scored a sensational strike in their 1-0 win over Zoo and will be hoping to get one over his former employers when the two sides clash on Sunday.

“Nzoia started on a high and any team that gets promoted into the big league comes with attitude, excitement and enthusiasm. They want to prove that they are good enough for KPL and they’re definitely no pushovers.

“We cannot underrate their ability going by their good run of results posted so far,” Hall warned ahead of Saturday’s derby.

The former Azam FC tactician highlighted their opponents’ clinical execution of set-pieces and their speed on the counter – the two aspects of their style of play that saw them complete a shocking 5-2 demolition of Tusker in their KPL opener.

“They are particularly very fast, and they easily capitalize on corners and free-kicks. They have derived confidence from their past displays but we have better players than them so we have to work hard and deal with that as a team,” Hall underscored.

Ingwe will miss services of new signings Samuel Ndung’u and Vincent Oburu whose clearances to feature for their new employers are yet to be released.

“Ndung’u and Oburu will not play; this is absurd because this clearance issue should have been resolved before the league kicked off. I’m however confident the players I have will deliver,” Hall complained.

Mwalala has asserted he has asked his players to approach Ingwe with the same mentality they did against Mathare United and Tusker, saying his long-term mission is to stamp their authority as a KPL force to reckon with.

On the struggles of the three other clubs who earnead their promotion last term, Mwalala attributed his side’s superior display to the fact he retained his winning team as the rest reshuffled their squads.

“Most of the players we have here are young and very few of them are over 30 years. That allows us to have the pace that is lacking in many teams in the KPL right now.

“Besides, the hard work and extra effort that we put in training, I think this is our greatest strength,” Mwalala told kpl.co.ke.

-nothing special-

Mwalala is keen to keep the momentum his charges have built, saying there is nothing special with Leopards match.

“I think what has propelled us is the confidence that we acquired by the good run we had last year in the NSL. The players believed in themselves and I can see that they brought that belief into the top flight.

“We are, however, not getting carried away. I know this league is very competitive therefore even though we haven’t lost any game; it is a possibility that we will have to deal with. We want to be able to fight it out with the other teams, taking a match at a time,” he remarked.

-Sleeping champions-

Tusker’s under fire Head Coach George ‘Best’ Nsimbe is struggling to convince his employers he is the right man for the job and Chemelil’s challenge comes amid rumors the club’s management is set to hold crunch talks over ‘some serious issues’.

How a club with over 80 percent of the squad that won a domestic double last season is yet to register a single point after two matches has drawn criticism but Tusker are certainly far off crisis point.

The Sugar Millers will be looking to exploit their uninspiring start when the two lock horns at the Afraha Stadium, Nakuru.

Muhoroni Youth – who were docked of three points for abandoning their match against Kakamega Homeboyz – will host Bandari FC.

The Coastal-based side led by Paul Nkata sits sixth with a win and a draw to their credit.

Sofapaka face Mathare buoyed by their just announced one-year sponsorship deal worth Ksh50m with president Elly Kalekwa terming the development a game changer in their title chances.

In other matches, Homeboyz play Posta Rangers in Mumias, Sony Sugar face off with Thika United, Kariobangi Sharks host Ulinzi in Machakos, Gor visit Western Stima in Kisumu as Zoo and Nakumatt complete the weekend fixtures in Kericho.

KPL Full fixtures:                                      

AFC Leopards vs Nzoia Sugar

Kariobangi Sharks FC vs Ulinzi Stars

Bandari FC vs Muhoroni Youth

Kakamega Homeboyz vs Posta Rangers

Mathare United vs Sofapaka

Tusker FC vs Chemelil Sugar

Western Stima vs Gor Mahia

Zoo Kericho vs Nakumatt FC