Will Leopards delay Gor's inevitable title celebrations?
There will still be plenty at stake at Kasarani Stadium today when AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia meet for the 86th edition of the Mashemeji derby as the SportPesa Premier League enters homestretch.
Save for the bragging rights, there is a lot to play for as both teams will be out to bounce back from the identical 1-0 midweek defeat to Nzoia Sugar and KCB.
Nzoia ended Gor’s 21-game unbeaten run in the league at Mumias Sports Complex, thus slowing down K’ogalo’s march to their third consecutive title as KCB completed a double over Leopards in Machakos.
Twenty-seven points separate the two archrivals with Bandari (58) the closest challengers to league leaders and record Kenyan champions Gor Mahia.
But while Gor will be seeking to open an eleven-point gap over the dockers, who host Zoo in Mombasa, Leopards are desperate to avenge the 2-0 first leg loss as well as end the long winless run in the derby.
Only a defeat would delay Hassan Oktay-men’s inevitable coronation depending on the results in Mombasa.
Gor have dominated the recent couple of meetings between the two sides with the last defeat to Leopards coming way back in 2016.
However, with both teams having rested some key players in mid-week, it means the 4.15pm encounter could be one of the closest derbies in recent years.
Leopards coach Casa Mbungo rested the quartet of David Ochieng, Whyvonne Isuza, Paul Were and Soter Kayumba while his counterpart Hassan Oktay didn’t field captain Harun Shakava, Joash Onyango, Kenneth Muguna, Francis Kahata and Philemon Otieno.
The trio of Samuel Onyango, Jacques Tuyisenge and Lawrence Juma came off the bench in the second half against Nzoia.
But for players like Isuza, this would be a great moment for him to prove his mettle after the recent call up to the AFCON-bound Harambee Stars provisional squad.
“It is a big match with a lot at stake. Both of us want the three points, but at the same time this is a rivalry which excites the fans,” Isuza told Standard Sports.
“We haven’t won the derby for a very long time, but I think this is a different game. We will try to give our best. On a personal level, many will be expecting me to continue with my good run as well as prove recent call up to the national team was no fluke.”
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