Four teams likely to challenge K’Ogalo in battle for KPL title

Gor Mahia FC coach Steven Pollack celebrates Nicholas Kipkurui's goal against Aigle Noir The Fighters from Burundi during their CAF Total Champions League 2019/20 match at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi on August 25, 2019 [Courtesy]

Though Gor Mahia remains favourite to win this season’s Kenyan Premier League title, it will not be a walk in the park for the record champions to lift their fourth consecutive title.

Having lost a number of their key players led by captain Harun Shakava, Francis Kahata and Jacques Tuyisenge in the off-season, they will face stiff competition from Bandari, Tusker, Sofapaka, KCB returnees Wazito and perennial rivals AFC Leopards, who have strengthened their squad.

With a new coach in British-Finnish born Steve Pollack and captain Kenneth Muguna, the duo have perhaps the toughest task on their hands to guide K’Ogalo to their 19th league title and improve their performance in continental events.

GOR MAHIA

Coach: Steve Pollack

Although he has declared to be a man on a mission; to retain the Kenyan Premier League and lead the club to the Champions’ League group stages, the British-Finnish coach is in for a tough season.

It will be interesting to see how what he will achieve with his relatively new-look and youthful side. He will make his KPL debut today against 11-time champions Tusker at 4.15pm in Kisumu.

Key player: Kenneth Muguna

From the last three competitive matches, the 2016 player of the year has already shown he has what it takes to wear the armband and lead Gor Mahia to more glory. He’s a technically talented attacking midfielder. It seems Gor Mahia will pin their hopes on this man as he’s heavily expected to conduct their orchestra this campaign.

Player to watch: Tobias Otieno

The defensive midfielder has been nothing short of revelation at Gor Mahia since his arrival from Sony Sugar in the offseason. Opposing players find it difficult to rob the ball from the youngster thanks to his quick reactions and ability to shield the back four.

Bandari

Going by their last year’s performance and recent CAF Confederation Cup exploits, Bandari should be considered as one of the major contenders to win this year’s Kenyan Premier League title.

Having finished second last year and with the quality of the players in the team, there is a lot of optimism around the club heading into the new season as Bernard Mwalala seeks to win his first league title with Batoto Ba Mungu.

Coach: Bernard Mwalala

Though Bandari have been struggling up front, the outspoken coach has put faith in his youthful squad. Mwalala will be eager to write history with the dockers this season.

Key player: Yema Mwana

With his combination of acceleration, skill, intelligence and strong finishing ability, Bandari will bank their hopes on the proven Congolese goal scorer this season.

Player to watch: Hassan Abdalla

The enterprising winger demonstrated tremendous maturity last year scoring and creating a number of goals. He is expected to complement with Yema Mwana upfront.

AFC Leopards

AFC Leopards coach Cassa Mbungo has had a busy transfer window overhauling his underperforming squad, bringing on board a number of players including Ugandan goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan and striker Hansel Ochieng’.

On paper, Leopards have a strong squad enough to challenge for the title, but from their awful pre-season performance it seems they will struggle to end their two-decade league title drought.

Coach: Cassa Mbungo

The Rwandan coach has a very tough task of reviving the lost glory in the title-starved AFC Leopards’ den. Mbungo will be hoping for a positive start to the season when Ingwe take on Kakamega Homeboyz at Bukhungu Stadium tomorrow.

Key player: Whyvonne Isuza

The Kenyan international was invaluable for AFC Leopards last season, scoring a number of crucial goals that helped them retain their league status. He has an excellent ability to read the game and control the tempo. He has a point to prove after reportedly being given the captain’s armband.

Player to watch: Benjamin Ochan

The Ugandan import has joined AFC Leopards at a time when the team is not at its best. With his vast experience, Ochan will be expected to try and help the leaking Leopards’ defence as they seek to reclaim the title they last won in 1998.

Wazito

Wazito have been the talk of the town with their expensive buys in the offseason making them one of the Kenyan Premier League title contenders on their return to topflight football. They have brought a lot of excitement in the league.

And with their resources, the ever-demanding Dubai-based tycoon Ricardo Badoer will be expecting nothing short of a title from the Stanley Okumbi-trained side.

Coach: Stanley Okumbi

With no doubt pressure will be on the former Harambee Stars coach to lead Wazito to KPL glory this season.

Key player: Joe Waithira

The prolific striker is one of the longest-serving players at the fancied Wazito side. With Dennis Gicheru sidelined with a long term injury, the former Mt.Kenya United is expected to wear the armband and lead the team to their first ever silverware in the topflight football. Waithira’s most obvious asset is his ability to take on defenders, run behind them and score goals.

Player to watch: Musa Masika

Masika, a younger brother to China-based Ayub Timbe, has been considered as one of the most promising and exciting players to watch in the country after his impressive displays for both Wazito and Kenya U23 team last season.

Tusker

With an experienced coach, Robert Matano and a new crop of expensive talent, Tusker look primed for a Kenyan Premier League title this season. Matano appears to be is still in a process of implementing a winning mentality into the players. It remains to be seen how quickly their new acquisitions will bond with the rest of the team in the chase for their 12th title.

Teams likely to be involved in the relegation dogfight this season

Sony Sugar, Zoo, Kisumu All-Stars, Chemelil Sugar

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