The 19th week of the 2016 season of the Kenyan Premier League is here and with it comes the intrigues at both ends of the table with the title race as heated as the race for survival.
At the top, Gor Mahia, Tusker, Mathare United and Ulinzi Stars will all be looking to make up for lost ground while at the bottom, Sofapaka and City Stars will both be looking to gain in their fights for survival. The battle will also see Thika United seen to rise away from the relegation danger.
Here is a preview of how it will all go down;
Mathare United vs Thika United (Nyayo Stadium, 2pm)
Mathare United coach Francis Kimanzi was livid as he watched his team split points with AFC Leopards last weekend after surrendering a one-goal deal.
The slum boys have a chance to make amends against a decidedly struggling Thika United side.
Striker Shami Kibwana and defender Dennis Odhiambo are however back to full fitness and available for Thika for this game.
Mathare may be without influential international midfielder Eric Johanna who has been invited for trials at Swedish club AIK Fotboll.
Chemelil Sugar vs Kakamega Homeboyz (Chemelil SugarSports Complex, 3pm)
The fine form of Kakamega Homeboyz will be put to severe test in this away match for them.
Homeboyz coach Mike Mururi, goalkeeper Jairus Adira, strikers Meshach Karani and Hamisi Mwinyi as well as Stephen Wakhanya will all be facing their former employer.
Whoever wins the match could move four places up the KPL table. Chemelil will take heart from their 1-0 triumph in their first leg fixture.
Western Stima vs Posta Rangers (Moi Stadium, 3pm)
Western Stima has drawn the joint highest number of matches in the league, eight, and would be happy to share the spoils against this useful Posta side.
Rangers are smarting from their 2-1 loss to Muhoroni Youth last week in a lively affair and will want to bounce back with emphasis. They are however without Timothy Otieno, out with a knee injury.
AFC Leopards vs SonySugar (Nyayo Stadium, 4.15pm)
AFC Leopards played out a thrilling 1-1 draw with Mathare United a week ago.
The seemingly recovering big cats had a week earlier crushed Thike United 4-0 in their opening second leg match and will want assurance of their abilities by drawing blood against the sugar millers.
Malian Moussa Sissoko’s paperwork remains incomplete, and Paul Kiongera is doubtful with injury for Ingwe who can, however, look to red-hot striker and captain Kepha Aswani and Allan Katerrega to hunt for goals. Youngster Ian Odhiambo takes the place of injured goalkeeper Lucas Indeche.
Former Kakamega Homeboyz striker Jeremiah Wanjala is yet to open his account for Sony, but he is still the player to watch as Sony seek to revenge the 2-1 loss they suffered at the hands of Leopards in the first leg.
Sofapaka vs Tusker (Kenyatta Stadium, 2pm)
Tuskers are five points clear atop the league table and will be keen to collect all spoils against basement side Sofapaka.
The struggling 2009 champions will, however, take courage from their unexpected draw away to Kakamega Homeboyz.
Sofapaka coach David Ouma is away on international duty with Kenya women’s football team, meaning that old boy John Baraza will stand in his stead.
Interestingly, Tusker’s Ekaliana Ndolo, James Situma, David Okello, Collins Shivachi and Danson Kago will all line up against their former club.
Even though the brewers won just 1-0 the reverse fixture, they start as overwhelming favourites. Their lead scorer Michael Khamati, with five goals so far, has not seen the back of the net in several fixtures and will be keen to get his account ticking again.
Bandari vs Muhoroni Youth (Mbaraki Sports Club, 3pm)
Bandari, despite all their promise and talk of a possible title challenge at the beginning of the season, have conspired to disappoint, and are now even staring at a potential relegation fight at the business end of this competition.
Their stand-in coach Ken Odhiambo must find a way of bringing out the best in the tried and tested players in the coast-based team, the likes of internationals Dan Sserunkuma, Edwin Lavatsa and Anthony Kimani.
Muhoroni Youth will welcome back their lead striker and current league top score Wycliffe Ochomo, who will not doubt be hungry to add on to his 11-goal season plunder.
Muhoroni defender Peter Okore misses this match on suspension after accumulating five yellow cards.
Ulinzi Stars vs Ushuru (Afraha Stadium, 3pm)
None other than Ulinzi coach Robert Matano has publicly wondered what is happening to the soldiers’ dwindling fortunes.
The Kenya Defence Forces club seems to be lacking firepower with their led striker John Mark Makwatta experiencing a dip in form, and his strike partners Kevin Amwayi and Stephen Waruru yet to find their attacking mojo.
Ushuru, under the astute and calculating Ken Kenyatta held Gor Mahia to a 1-1 draw last weekend, and have not lost in their last four games. Rest assured Kenyatta will have plotted for the soldiers as he seeks to avenge the 1-0 loss in the first leg.
Gor Mahia vs City Stars (Nyayo Stadium, 4.15pm)
Gor Mahia coach Marcelo Ferreira, after dropping four points in two games, has made it clear that he is dissatisfied with the output of his strikers.
Meddie Kagere and his Rwandan counterpart Jacques Tuyisenge, will have held a conversation on this matter, and expect them to come out guns blazing on Sunday.
City Stars collected their first point under new Ugandan coach Tamale Pinto last weekend. They will also be encouraged by the fact that they held the defending champions to a 2-2 draw in the first leg contest.
Ex-Gor player Ezekiel Odera, scorer of City Stars’ equalizer against Ulinzi Stars last weekend, will be facing his previous employers and will certainly be eager to prove a point, Green Army intimidation or not.