Ulinzi Stars are enduring their worst season in recent times and this weekend, they travel to Zoo Kericho in round 29 of the SportPesa Premier League matches.
AFC Leopards will welcome Sony Sugar in Machakos looking to jump into the table’s top half, while defending champions Gor Mahia will be at home against Sofapaka in Kisumu.
Ulinzi, who have won the top flight league four times, including three consecutive titles from 2003 to 2005, find themselves lying in eighth place on the table, a position far beneath their preseason ambitions of winning the title.
Gone, it seems, are the days when the soldiers would challenge for the league title, or at least keep pace with the leading pack long enough to be considered real contenders. A look at the club’s statistics shows that thy have been regressing in performance over the last two years. And in this gap season, their poor fortunes seem to have been exacerbated by the cluttered fixtures that has taken a toll on many SPL teams.
Throughout this season, Ulinzi have not once threatened to be league challengers. They haven’t won any match against the top six sides.
So as they face Zoo on Sunday, their only motivation will be to stay in the top half of the table, a position they achieved just a month ago with great effort.
Their 2010 title-winning coach Benjamin Nyangweso, who returned to the side in March this year to help the team out of a rut that had seen them win just twice in 13 games, seems to have steadied ship, but six wins in 14 games is nowhere near impactful enough to help the soldiers get to where they need to be.
It is clear that they are yet to recover from the departure of star forwards Stephen Waruru, John Mark Makwatta, Samuel Onyango and Kevin Amwayi, which are some of the reasons they are struggling this season.
There is however Enosh Ochieng, a striker who has proven useful and who is challenging for the top scorers’ gong with his 15 goals so far.
Ochieng is likely to be deployed in the front line to ensure that the soldiers get better fortunes than their first leg meeting with Zoo which ended in a barren draw.
“We have to win that match. We had problems with the defence and the strikers (against Posta Rangers) but we have rectified that and I am expecting nothing but victory,” he said.
Zoo will be looking to disentangle themselves from a five-match winless streak that has seen them sink to the second last spot on the table.
Posta Rangers v Vihiga United (Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos, 11am)
Mathare United v Mount Kenya United (MISC, Kasarani, 3pm)
Zoo v Ulinzi Stars (Kericho Green Stadium, 3pm)
Sony Sugar v AFC Leopards (Green Stadium, Awendo, 12pm)
Tusker v Nzoia Sugar (Ruaraka, 3pm)
Kakamega Homeboyz v Western Stima (Bukhungu Stadium, 3pm)
Gor Mahia v Sofapaka (Moi Stadium, Kisumu, 4.15pm)