Record Kenyan champions Gor Mahia will take on Algerian side USM Alger in a first round Caf Champions League tie at the Stade Mustapha Tchaker in Blida on Sunday night amid off-pitch issues from both sides.
K’Ogalo had to wait on the Ministry of Sport to bail them out with air tickets to Algeria after desperately knocking on doors all week while USM Alger are also facing financial challenges after club president Ali Haddad’s bank accounts and those of the club were frozen over alleged corruption.
The two teams met last year at the group stage of the Confederation Cup with the first leg in Nairobi ending in a barren draw while USM Alger won 2-1 at home.
To qualify for this stage, Gor Mahia edged Burundian side Aigle Noir 5-1 on aggregate in the preliminary round while USM Alger beat SONIDEP from Niger 3-1 to advance.
Gor Mahia coach Steven Polack is eager to guide the team into the group stage but is wary of the threat USM Alger pose at home. “I know they beat us last year but history counts for nothing in modern football. We will fight hard and ensure we come back to Kenya with a positive result. However, I know North Africans are not easy to play at their own backyard. We have a game plan and I am optimistic it will work,” Polack told Nation Sport.
Jacques Tuyisenge was the main man for K’Ogalo upfront last season but with the Rwandese striker having left the team to join Angolan giants Petro Atletico, Nicholas Kipkirui has proved an able replacement. He will most likely lead the goal hunt while Tanzanian custodian David Mapigano has been the preferred safe pair of hands between the sticks.
USM Alger will miss the services of midfielder Mohammed Benkhemassa who recently joined Spanish second-tier side Malaga. USM Alger are fourth in the Algerian top-tier with seven points from three matches, the latest a 3-2 win over Ain M’lila while Gor Mahia started their season with a 5-2 win over Tusker. The return leg will be at Kasarani on September 29.
Probable Gor Mahia line-up
David Mapigano (GK), Wellington Ochieng, Joash Onyango, Charles Momanyi, Geoffrey Ochieng, Tobias Otieno, Kenneth Muguna (C), Lawrence Juma, Boniface Omondi, Nicholas Kipkirui, Dickson Ambundo