League leaders Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards’ 50-year-old rivalry goes on display yet again Sunday afternoon at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani as the two teams face off in the season’s second instalment of the Mashemeji derby and their last league duel of the season.
It will be the 91st league meeting between the two sides that humorously refer to each other as in-laws, but are bitter, sworn opponents on the pitch.
And the last time this match was played, Ingwe went home weary and dejected, as they had been dismissed by a 2-0 loss that saw coach Casa Mbungo lose his first Mashemeji derby.
Going by recent form, it is likely that Gor Mahia may yet again prevail in Sunday’s match. K’Ogalo has been dominant in as far as recent derby matchups are concerned having won five of the last six encounters against Ingwe.
But what gives the match special importance for the Green Army is the fact that victory will see them effectively put the title race to bed, allowing Oktay and his players to finally, with three more games left to play, switch to holiday mode.
Rwandan Mbungo, who has impressively guided Ingwe to ninth place on the log up from the very base of the SportPesa Premier League table, is acutely aware that another defeat in this high-stakes match up will be very unpalatable to Ingwe fans.
Mbungo is one of the coaches who moulded K’Ogalo’s talismanic striker Jacques Tuyisenge (at Rwandan club Police FC) into the striking beast he currently is.
Tuyisenge, a Rwandan with six league goals, is fit and available, and is a sure starter in the green army’s attacking line that will be missing Dennis Oliech. The latter is out for five months recuperating from a broken left arm.
Oktay also has Francis Kahata and Kenneth Muguna in midfield to add the creative spark while combining with the front line of Nicholas Kipkirui and dribbler Samuel “Daddy” Onyango who is currently the club’s top scorer with eight goals.
Ugandan left-back Shafik Batambuze is still nursing an ankle injury, but Oktay has Joash Onyango and Harun Shakava to cover the centre back position and Godfrey Ochieng and Philemon Otieno in the full back positions.
Gor players seem to have taken to coach Oktay’s coaching philosophy like fish to water, if their run in the Caf Confederation Cup and fierce league title defence is anything to go by.
The Turkish Cypriot, who is a lot less into showboating and more reserved than his predecessor Dylan Kerr, however says that form, history, statistics, fielding and bench strength will count for nothing when the two clubs meet in a battle for bragging rights.
“We know the result we want and we are going for it. I expect a tough challenge from Leopards but we want to win. I am confident the boys will deliver,” said Oktay.
New signings David ‘Cheche’ Ochieng and Paul “Maldez” Were have brought much-required experience into the den, and both are likely to start together with midfielder Whyvonne Isuza set to be the playmaker.
Mbungo is likely to summon experienced compatriot Eric Ndashimiye for the goalkeeping position, as Isaac Kipyegon, Salim Abdallah and Robinson Kamura stand in defence.
“This is a big game and we are well prepared for it mentally and physically. Every player wants to win and I am sure we shall do so. For our fans,” Were told Nation Sport.
VIP and terrace tickets for the match are on sale for Sh500 and Sh200 from 7am at Kenya Cinema, at a stationary van along Thika Road, and at Kasarani's gates 2 and 12 for the match that kicks off at 4:15pm.