League leaders Nzoia Sugar on Sunday host on form AFC Leopards at Sudi Stadium in Bungoma County as Football Kenya Federation Premier League enters Round 14 this weekend.
Six other matches are lined up for Saturday while three will be played on Sunday across different venues in the country.
Record FKF-PL champions Gor Mahia could go top of the table on Saturday if they beat struggling Nairobi City Stars at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
Defending champions Tusker will be out to end their poor run when they host Kariobangi Sharks at Ruaraka Grounds also on Saturday.
On Sunday, Kenya Police who are enjoying a fine run will be away to Bidco United at Nyayo National Stadium while fourth-placed KCB host bottom-placed Mathare United at MISC Kasarani Annex from 1pm on Saturday.
In the late kick-off at the same venue, FC Talanta will take on Bandari who have blown hot and cold this season. Coach Anthony Kimani is optimistic they will continue their good record against FC Talanta.
“We’ve trained in Nairobi on Thursday and Friday, I’m confident we will do well though we expect tough opposition from our opponents,” said Kimani who will be without long term absentee Mohamed Abeid who is still injured.
A win for Nzoia Sugar will see them consolidate their lead at the top and reach the 30-point mark. The sugar millers are on 27 points after 13 games.
Coach Salim Babu’s charges could also widen their lead at the top if Gor, Tusker and KCB who are all tied on 24 points but separated with goal difference drop points against their opponents.
However, Leopards won’t be easy opponents for Nzoia considering they are also on form despite struggling at the start of the season.
Leopards beat lowly ranked Vihiga Bullets by a solitary goal on Wednesday just three days after dominating the Mashemeji Derby against rivals Gor Mahia at Nyayo National Stadium.
Free entry at Sudi
In fact, Leopards last loss in the league came on January 14 when they lost 2-1 to Wazito at Muhoroni Stadium.
Leopards also boast of a huge fan base in Western Kenya and will of course have the 12th man to their advantage at Sudi. Fans are expected to attend the game in their numbers after Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka paid the home team Nzoia to waive the entry fee.
“Fans should attend the match in huge numbers because Governor Lusaka has paid us money, more than even what we have ever collected. He has paid us very very well thus we have no reason to put the gate charges. Even in the last three home games, the Governor has catered for our camping expenses,” Nzoia Sugar chairman Evans Kadenge confirmed to Nation Sport.
Leopards head into the game the inferior side having not beaten Nzoia Sugar in the last three matches. Ingwe last beat the 2001 FKF-PL champions on May 15, 2021.
Last season, Nzoia convincingly won the second leg 3-1 at home while the two sides played out to a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
Nzoia Sugar have drawn praise from local football purists because of their style of play where they display short passes, and skillful dribbles inside the opponents box instead of shooting from far.
In last weekend’s clash against Ulinzi the sugar millers came from a goal behind and netted in the 86th and 89th minute to bag maximum points.
“We are ready for Leopards and also expect a huge turnout in the game. Expect an entertaining match and since we are at home, this is the chance for us to do better and win this crucial tie. I believe victory will be ours,” said Nzoia Sugar coach Salim Babu.
AFC Leopard assistant coach Tom Juma also said they will be targeting a win.
“What will happen on the pitch is what will count. This is a brotherly clash and let the best team win,” he said.
Leopards are seventh on 21 points from 13 matches.
Tusker seek redemption
For Nzoia Sugar, the players to watch are winger Hassan Beja and midfielder Bonface Munyendo. Kenyan international Cliff Nyakeya and Nigerian import Ojo Olaniyi have hit form and will be relied upon by Leopards in attack.
Gor face Nairobi City Stars who lost 2-1 to Bandari last Sunday in a game that was marred by match-fixing claims.
A win for K’Ogalo will see them go top if Nzoia draw or lose against AFC Leopards. Gor have amassed 24 points with two games in hand and hold +2 goal difference compared to the sugar millers.
In the last five matches between the two sides, Gor have won thrice, Simba wa Nairobi once while one contest has ended in 1-1 draw.
Gor Mahia foward Benson Omala, who is leading the Golden Boot race will be looking to add to his 10 goals in the City Stars clash.
A win for Tusker and KCB could add a new dimension to the title race.
However, a loss for the brewers could mean coach Robert Matano’s job is on the line having only won once in the last six matches.
“In football sometimes you have a rough patch and things doesn’t go your way. We need to pick up ourselves and win against Sharks,” said Tusker captain Humphrey Mieno.
“The bad run is a wake up call for us after winning the first six matches and that shows the league is a marathon and competitive,” added the evergreen midfielder.
Last season, Tusker won the second leg by a solitary goal while Sharks thrashed them 3-0 in the first leg.
Fixtures (All matches at 1pm unless stated)
Wazito v Sofapaka ( Muhoroni)
KCB v Mathare United (Kasarani Annex 1pm)
Kakamega Homeboyz v Posta Rangers (Bukhungu)
FC Talanta v Bandari (Kasarani Annex 3.15pm)
Gor Mahia v Nairobi City Stars (Kasarani)
Tusker v Kariobangi Sharks (Ruaraka Grounds)
Nzoia Sugar v AFC Leopards ( Sudi)
Bidco United v Kenya Police (Nyayo)
Vihiga Bullets v Ulinzi Stars (Bukhungu)