After a week-long break to allow for the first round of GOtv Shield fixtures, the SportPesa Premier League resumes in earnest this weekend. It is a full raft of matches but the pick of them all is no doubt the clash between these two former champions Gor Mahia and Ulinzi Stars in Nakuru on Sunday.
AFC Leopards vs Kariobangi Sharks (Afraha Stadium)
Impressive Sharks are unbeaten in eight matches while Leopards are winless from their last eight outings.
That is the backdrop under which new Ingwe coach Tom Juma and his team come into this match.
Former Tusker and Nakumatt striker Ismail Dunga will make his first appearance for Sharks after joining the club last week.
Ingwe will be without their season’s captain Bernard Mang’oli who departed for Sofapaka. But Leopards have signed red-hot Ugandan Keziron Kizito who should make his debut on Sunday. Watch out for him.
Nakumatt vs Sofapaka (Ruaraka Ground)
Buoyed by their big 2-0 win over Gor Mahia a fortnight ago, Sofapaka will be well charged for this match.
Nakumatt’s new signing Jackson Saleh, who penned a three-year deal with the retail traders earlier in the week, could be preferred to start against Batoto ba Mungu
owing to his vast Premiership experience.
Striker Timothy Luda started his career at Sofapaka in telling fashion by scoring one of the team’s two goals against Gor, and, you bet, will want to be on the score sheet again.
Nzoia Sugar vs Thika United (Sudi Stadium)
Nzoia Sugar will want to break the jinx that has seen them fail to win at Sudi this season.
Thika have not won in their last 10 matches, but have put together a four-match unbeaten run having drawn with Kakamega Homeboyz, Muhoroni Youth, Gor Mahia and Posta Ranger. They will fancy good returns here.
The visitors will be boosted by the availability of captain Dennis Odhiambo, goalkeeper Boniface Barasa and right-back Baraka Badi who resumed training this week after sitting out the entire May with injury.
Neither team has been active in the transfer window.
Western Stima vs Muhoroni Youth (Moi Stadium)
Western Stima have one midseason signing so far in Palos defender Geoffrey Ochieng.
Muhoroni have incorporated calculating coach Gilbert Selebwa into the technical bench in a bid to find answers to their poor form this season.
Last season, Stima got four points from Muhoroni, in a 0-0 result in Muhoroni in April,and a comprehensive 3-0 thrashing at Moi Stadium in Kisumu.
Gor Mahia vs Ulinzi Stars (Moi Stadium)
Gor Mahia captain Musa Mohammed will for the first time this season watch proceedings from the stands as he serves a one match suspension for picking up a red card in his team’s last match against Sofapaka.
League top scorer with eight goals thus far, Stephen Waruru, has been a pain to most SPL defenders so far this season, and it remains to be seen how Gor’s three-man defense will cope with him.
This will be coach Zedekiah Otieno’s third game in charge following the abrupt departure of Brazilian Marcelo Ferreira two weeks ago.
Gor Mahia have lost to Ulinzi in their last eight encounters, beating them thrice and drawing five times.
Posta Rangers vs Chemelil Sugar (Afraha Stadium)
Rangers new signing Kennedy Otieno has already earned coach Sammy Omollo’s praise following his performance against Thika United two weeks ago and will relish a run against the sugar millers.
Omollo will return to the touchline after missing out two games on compassionate leave following the death of his father.
Chemelil gained four points from Posta last season in 1-0 and 1-1 results.
Sony Sugar vs Kakamega Homeboyz (Awendo Green Stadium)
Sony Sugar have lost defender Bonifce Muchiri to Tusker, but will be boosted by the acquisition of striker Laban Gambareko on loan from rivals Chemelil Sugar.
Homeboyz have lost just once in their last eight games.
The two sides drew o-o in their first leg encounter last season before Sony collected three points in their reverse fixture after a 1-0 victory.
Tusker vs Bandari (Kinoru Stadium)
League leaders Tusker are on a roll unbeaten in their last 12 matches.
Dan Sserunkuma will play no further part in the dockers’ team after decamping for the Moroccan league.Bandari’s Paul Nkata, championship winning coach with Tusker last season, will know a thing or two about the brewers and can look to former Gor Mahia striker Baron Oketch as well as Tanzanian striker Lewis Cosmas search for the goals.
Tusker collected four points from the dockers last season, winning 1-0 in Mombasa before drawing 1-1 upcountry in the return match. The brewers eliminated Bandari from the Top 8 Knockout tournament last year courtesy of a 2-1 win.
Zoo Kericho vs Mathare United (Kericho Green Stadium)
Mathare are lying at the basement of the league table, an unfamiliar position for the 2008 champions.
This will be the first time that the two teams are meeting at this level, and as strange as this might sound, Mathare, despite their pedigree, are the underdogs.