The tactical prowess of Belgian coach Patrick Aussems and Irishman Johnathan McKinstry will come to the fore during Sunday’s Mashemeji Derby pitting AFC Leopards against Gor Mahia.
The two big clubs meet in the much-awaited Football Kenya Federation Premier League fixture from 3pm at Nyayo National Stadium.
Both teams head into the fixture on top form having won their last two league matches.
Aussems, 57 and McKinstry, 37 are the only foreign coaches in the topflight league but this will be the first derby for the latter since he was named Gor Mahia coach last July.
Since the season started, both coaches have always opted for the 4-4-2 formation. However, McKinstry has once in a while packed the midfield with 3-5-2 like in the barren draw against Sofapaka two weeks ago.
Gor Mahia head into the contest boasting of a lethal attack with their main forward Benson Omala leading the Golden Boot Race with 10 goals.
Leopards’ defence have to be wary of Omala, 21 who can score with both feet and carries an aerial threat having netted four goals via headers this season.
K’Ogalo also have the best defence in the league, having conceded only four goals so far.
However, Gor Mahia captain Philemon Otieno insists the more clinical side will carry the day.
“Derbies are never easy and form doesn’t count. Both teams have good players and it will be a close contest. So it is the tactics and how each team uses its chances which will count because both Gor and Leopards are on form,” said the Kenyan international defender.
Otieno is expected to partner Geoffrey Ochieng, Joshua Onyango and Dennis Ng’ang’a in defence with evergreen Earnest Wendo manning the midfield.
Gor have amassed 23 points from 10 matches and their only loss this season was 1-0 defeat to KCB on January 4.
For AFC Leopards, Aussems will have to inject confidence in his young squad for them to end the seven-year jinx against Gor Mahia. The last time Ingwe beat K’Ogalo was in 2016.
Leopards have often conceded goals due to erratic nature of custodian Levis Opiyo who was on the receiving end in the past derby.
In the last meeting between these two sides, Opiyo was jeered by fans for conceding an easy goal when Ingwe were leading.
Leopards defence has also been shaky mostly when Washington Munene is not on form. However, Peter Thiong’o, a midfielder who was converted to wing back, has been good in initiating counter attacks.
In attack, Nigerian import Ojo Olaniyi and Victor Omune have been in top form with the former having scored six goals this season. However, the duo have been on the receiving end for missing crucial penalties.
Omune missed a last minute penalty in 2-1 loss to Wazito at Muhoroni Stadium in Kisumu on January 14. Olaniyi suffered the same fate as Leopards were beaten 1-0 by Tusker on December 4.
A reprieve for Aussems is that Kenyan international Cliff Nyakeya has picked form and is the force behind Leopards resurgence lately.
Nyakeya was the man of the match in Ingwe’s 2-0 win against Bandari and 1-0 triumph over Kenya Police in their last two matches.
“We have to do it this time. This will be a closely contested game but as Ingwe we wouldn’t want to disappoint our fans. It is long since we defeated them but this time round we have to do our best to change the trend,” said AFC Leopards captain Eugene Mukangula who has been at his best steering the team’s midfield.
AFC Leopards will obviously have the 12th man advantage at Nyayo since their fans have been turning up for league matches in their numbers compared to Gor.
Former Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama and USA-based midfielder Richard Odada have openly backed Leopards to win the derby.