The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) enters Round Three this weekend with nine matches on the card across different venues in the country.
Champions Gor Mahia will aim for top spot with victory against leaders KCB on Sunday while AFC Leopards go in search of their first win of the season against Wazito at Bukhungu Stadium.
Newcomers Kisumu All Stars are still without a win as they welcome Nzoia Sugar to Kisumu. Salim Ali will face his former employers Ulinzi Stars for the first time as head coach since leaving the barracks.
Here, Nation Sport presents five things to look out for in Round Three.
Can KCB's safe stand Gor Mahia's attack
After breaking the bank to sign big names, KCB’s management boldly declared a top-three finish as the minimum target for the new technical bench led by Zedekiah Otieno. With Otieno away in Germany for a coaching course, his assistant Godfrey Oduor has been holding brief to good effect.
Two games into the season, the bankers sit top with four points but the real test will be against champions Gor Mahia on Sunday. Last season, KCB picked four points from K’Ogalo having won the first leg 1-0 and settled for a 3-3 draw in the return leg. They are yet to concede but Gor’s attacking trio of Nicholas Kipkirui, Boniface Omondi and Dickson Ambundo has shown it can be ruthless when it settles into a rhythm.
A clean sheet and win against Gor will not only enhance their top three credentials but also leave the management dreaming of revising their targets upwards.
Wazito’s Ambani faces a game of his life
Wazito and AFC Leopards have endured difficult starts to the season understandably so after being the busiest during the primary transfer window. While Wazito signed 20 players, Ingwe roped in 14 as part of concerted efforts to build a team that could challenge for the title.
Both sides have not won after 180 minutes but it’s Wazito who have been the subject of stick from local football fans. Fred Ambani will be on the touch line on Saturday with Stanley Okumbi away in Uganda with the national Under-20 team.
A deadly striker during his days at Ingwe, Ambani will hope his misfiring forwards will bring their A-game to Bukhungu Stadium and ease pressure on him. Ambani ascended to the helm after Mohammed Mchulla was dismissed in March following a spate of poor results and he is well aware any other result apart from a win will only thin Ricardo Badoer’s patience.
Salim needs to gamble for his first win
Mathare United have been left to rely on their academy graduates following the departure of regulars Samuel Olwande, James Situma, Johnstone Omurwa, Cliff Nyakeya and Allan Owiny. However, Salim Ali is yet to taste defeat since taking over from his long term mentor and friend Francis Kimanzi. He has done reasonably well with a squad mainly composed of the class of 2016 that won back-to-back KPL Under 20 titles but he still remains without a win.
The Slum Boys are known for starting the season strongly and Salim is certainly craving a win after inspiring displays against Tusker and Bandari. He is yet to find a solution upfront with Nyakeya’s shoes proving too big to fill but there is hope after youngsters Tyson Otieno and Klinsman Omulanga combined to secure a point against the brewers last time out. The pair has been impressive from the bench in the last two games and Salim might be tempted to play that card from the onset against the soldiers.
Zoo can make light work of Tusker
By their standards, Zoo have surprised everyone including themselves with their flying start to the season. Collins Neto’s brace in midweek stunned Bandari and you get the feeling that had they not withered under the humid conditions of Mombasa, this would have been a historic win. Danson Chetambe left but just like previous departures of Nicholas Kipkirui and Mike Madoya, the club has moved on with ease.
Kepha Ondati and Neto have provided goals this term and Zoo fans can be allowed to expect more against a Tusker side that has looked far from good at least defensively. In two games, the brewers have conceded six goals and they look like ripe fodder for a Zoo side that has plundered five in as many matches.
The hostile environment at Kericho Green Stadium further complicates Tusker’s chances and with Boniface Muchiri missing, it’s clearly Zoo’s game to lose.
Kemboi can make Otenga fly
Kisumu All Stars’ return to the topflight league was largely fuelled by a fantastic home record that saw them turn the Moi Stadium in Kisumu to a fortress last season. Michael Owino should have handed Otenga their first win of the season in their last outing against KCB but he skied his penalty at the death.
Henry Omino must be encouraged by the way they kept out a talented KCB side who had their stars Stephen Waruru and Enock Agwanda leading the attack. All Stars seem to have recovered from the opening loss to Ulinzi Stars and will fancy getting their first KPL win in front of their fans when they welcome Nzoia Sugar on Saturday.
Wesley Kemboi is yet to open his account but nobody has mastered the Moi Stadium’s goalposts better than him. Also, nobody knows to get the best out of Kemboi better than Omino since their Western Stima days. Otenga can rely on Kemboi to fly again.