Harambee Stars begins its 2019 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup defence with a game against rivals Tanzania at the Lugogo Stadium in Kampala on Sunday afternoon.
Coach Francis Kimanzi is upbeat and says his squad, comprising mainly of untested players at the national team level, is ready to defend their title.
Kenya won the title in 2017 by edging Zanzibar 5-4 on post-match penalties at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos and Kimanzi says the bar has already been set at the top and the current crop will have to do better.
“During such tournaments we have to give fresh faces the chance to show what they can do and thereafter promote some of them to the main team if they do well,” Kimanzi said on Saturday.
“Our target is very clear – we are the reigning champions and have to defend the title. Other than that, we have to do better than the squad that won the title last time and that only means winning the title in style by doing better in every single game.
My focus therefore really is in the tournament as a whole even as we start against Tanzania, we have to think and plan for the next matches,” he added.
Kenya are in Group B alongside Tanzania, Sudan and 2017 finalists Zanzibar and Kenneth Muguna, one of the senior players in the Harambee Stars squad, has warned his teammates against underrating their opponents.
“Tanzania has very good local players plying their trade for good teams like Simba and Azam – they form the basis of their senior national team and therefore we have to be very careful. The same applies to Sudan with the larger chunk of the team coming from big clubs like El Mereikh and Al Hilal,” the Gor Mahia captain said.
“We have very many young and inexperienced players in this squad but they are good and our job as senior players is to help them settle in and perform,” he added.
Tanzania coach Juma Mgunda, meanwhile believes Kenya are their only threat this year.
“We know Kenya very well, they are our neighbours and we have the derby rivalry which spans many decades. We will have to beat them to be assured of a good start and I guess they are also looking at beating us. It will be an entertaining game but as it stands they are our main rivals in the group,” Mgunda told Tanzanian portal Daily News.
Harambee Stars probable XI;
Timothy Odhiambo (GK), Johnstone Omurwa, Joash Onyango, David Owino, Samuel Olwande, Roy Okal, Kenneth Muguna, Musa Masika, Kevin Kimani, Clifton Miheso and Timothy Otieno.
Zanzibar v Sudan – 1:30pm
Kenya v Tanzania – 4pm