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Tusker host high-flying Bandari, Leopards stalk Nakumatt

By VINCENT OPIYO
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Tusker head coach Robert Matano is confident his charges will continue with their new-found form when they tackle high-flying Bandari in the SportPesa Premier League at Ruaraka grounds on Sunday.

The clash is one of the eight matches lined up for the weekend as the league enters round 26. All matches kick-off at 3pm.

New Nzoia Sugar coach Nicholas Muyoti will lead his charges for the first time in their visit of Zoo Kericho in the only tie slated for Saturday while champions Gor Mahia, who were up against Posta Rangers in Kisumu Friday, will take on Kakamega Homeboyz on Monday at the same venue.

Nakumatt, fresh from holding champions Gor Mahia to a 2-2 draw last Saturday, host fourth-placed AFC Leopards who beat Mathare United 2-1 in their last league match in Machakos.

Relegation-threatened Vihiga United visit third-placed Sofapaka at Narok Stadium, a clash coach John Baraza will be hoping to build on last weekend’s 1-0 win over Ulinzi Stars to reclaim second spot should Bandari falter at Ruaraka.

At Ruaraka grounds, Bandari, buoyed by their 2-1 midweek win over Gor Mahia which ended K’Ogalo’s 22-match unbeaten run in the league this term, tackle a Tusker side which is also on the ascendancy after a woeful start to the season.

The two sides have met 16 times previously with the brewers winning nine while four matches have ended in a draw.

Bandari, who lost 2-0 to Tusker in the first leg in May, are unbeaten under since coach Bernard Mwalala took charge last month – winning four and drawing once in five matches.

Mwalala comes up against a two-time title winning coach in Matano who has downplayed Bandari’s fine form stretching to seven games without defeat.

“We know they are on form but what’s important is the moment of that game, we’ve also prepared well, we are going for a win because we need to move out of our current position,” Matano told Nation Sport after the team’s training session at Ruaraka grounds on Friday.

Winger Boniface Muchiri, who struck twice in their 2-0 win over Kakamega Homeboyz last Sunday, sat out of the last session yesterday as he is bound to miss the encounter owing to suspension due to accumulation of five yellow cards.

“We will miss him but we’ve other players who can fill his void,” Matano said of the former Sony Sugar youngster who has scored five times in the league this term.

Bandari seem to have found a safe pair of hands in Farouk Shikhalo. The shot-stopper has been an outstanding figure at the club since crossing over from Posta Rangers in January and meets his former employers eyeing his 16th cleansheet in the current campaign.

“There’s nothing to prove against Tusker, our focus is to play well and win,” noted Shikhalo.

Elsewhere, Mathare United captain George Owino has termed their Slum derby against Kariobangi Sharks at Kasarani a must-win for the Francis Kimanzi-led side as they aim to finish in the top four.

Mathare are winless in eight league matches but battle an equally spluttering William Muluya-led Sharks side who have lost their last three matches.

“Winning a derby is a big motivation because it improves your confidence and encourages you to win more matches,” Owino is quoted on the club portal.

Zoo Kericho v Nzoia Sugar (Kericho Green Stadium, 3pm)

Thika United v Wazito (Thika Sub-county Stadium)

Mathare United v Kariobangi Sharks (MISC Kasarani)

Nakumatt v AFC Leopards (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos)

Tusker v Bandari (Ruaraka grounds)

Sofapaka v Vihiga United (Narok Stadium)

Ulinzi Stars v Sony Sugar (Afraha Stadium)

Gor Mahia v Kakamega Homeboyz (Moi Stadium, Kisumu)