KPL Preview: Ze Maria Makes Debut, City Stars on Leopards’ Radar

The 2016 Sportpesa Premier League enters matchday seven for all but two teams as the early scramble for positions and momentum continues.

Among the key battles, Brazilian Jose Marcelo Ferreira alias ‘Ze Maria’ will be hoping to make an immediate impact at winless Gor Mahia who are on the road to Kakamega, while unbeaten league leaders AFC Leopards come up against a dangerous Nairobi City Stars who inflicted the first defeat on Mathare United this past Wednesday.

Thika United vs Posta Rangers, Saturday, 2pm at Thika Stadium

Thika United have carried their struggles from last season into the new campaign which sees them winless in their opening five matches. Two draws and three loses convinced the club to part ways with Moses Irungu as the head coach with James Nandwa appointed in his place. The former Shabana FC manager will get his first test against Zedekiah Otieno’s Posta who have stumbled in their last two matches, losing to Homeboyz and being held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Sony Sugar this past Wednesday. Rangers go into the clash as favorites but the last time they played Thika in the 2012 league campaign, they were hammered 0-6 and 4-0 in the two legs. Repeating such a huge win is almost a mission impossible for Thika who have scored only four goals. They will gladly welcome an edgy 1-0 result

Head-to-Head Record: MP: 6; Wins: Thika 2-2 Posta, 2 Draws

Last Meeting: Thika United 4-0 Posta Rangers (September 2012)

Prediction: Posta Win

Sofapaka vs Chemelil Sugar, Saturday, 2pm at Machakos Stadium

With five losses on the road since their opening day win, Sofapaka are sliding into a form that could see them relegated by the midseason in June. Their latest capitulation came away to Western Stima who won the tie 1-0 to send Batoto Ba Mungu to within one point of relegation. David Ouma’s side have failed to recover from the 5-2 hammering at the hands of Mathare United in February and the boss must surely be running out of excuses. They host Chemelil Sugar who were thumped 3-0 by Tusker FC in midweek and both sides will be looking for some sort of response. Sofapaka have won four, drawn three and lost none of their seven home matches against Chemelil but given their form, the millers will not have a better opportunity for claiming their maiden win.

Head-to-Head Record: MP: 14; Wins: Sofapaka 5-2 Chemelil, 7 Draws

Last Meeting: Chemelil 0-1 Sofapaka

Prediction: Draw

Sony Sugar vs Western Stima, Saturday, 3pm at Awendo

Sony ended a four-game losing run by forcing a 1-1 draw with Posta Rangers in midweek. Robert Omunuk headed them in front but their defence held tight for only five minutes as Timothy Otieno pulled his side level and with both sides not offering much upfront, they shared the spoils. They welcome Western Stima who have not tasted defeat since a shocking 2-1 loss to Homeboyz in the opening matchday which were then followed by three successive one-all stalemates. Francis Ocholla’s goal gave them a narrow 1-0 win against struggling Sofapaka this past Wednesday and Henry Omino will be hoping for an often rare back-to-back result. Sony are yet to beat their weekend visitors in their own backyard since May 2013 but they won 2-0 when they met last season. Will they remember how they did it?

Head-to-Head Record: MP: 14; Wins: Sony 6-4 Western Stima, 4 Draws

Last Meeting: Western Stima 0-2 Sony Sugar

Prediction: Draw

Tusker vs Bandari, Saturday, 415pm at Machakos Stadium

The biggest battle of the weekend pits league title contenders Tusker FC and Bandari. The duo are only separated by two points and two positions with Tusker ahead. The Brewers traveled to Chemelil and left with three points and a 3-0 result which put them temporarily on top until AFC Leopards’ 2-1 victory over Kakamega Homeboyz. They have the chance to stay top for at least 24 hours when they host Bandari who were held 1-1 by Ulinzi Stars. Bandari had never beaten Tusker until their double 1-0 wins last season which might just do again given the Dockers’ struggling form in front of goal. With a chance to go top all but theirs to lose, Paul Nkata’s side will be prepared for this tie which could give us an early indication on which side has the real hunger.

Head-to-Head Record: MP: 10; Wins: Tusker 5-3 City Stars, 2 Draws

Last Meeting: Bandari 1-0 Tusker

Prediction: Bandari Win

Kakamega Homeboyz vs Gor Mahia, Saturday 2pm at Mumias Complex

Brazilian, Ze Maria will take charge of his first competitive match with the reigning champions when they travel to promoted side Kakamega Homeboyz. The former Brazil international has been using the international hiatus to test his side in friendly matches but will face a sterner test against Mike Mururi’s side. Homeboyz were pegged back after taking the lead against AFC Leopards in their midweek clash which they lost 2-1. They face a Gor Mahia side who are desperate to win their first match of the new campaign having failed to do so in their last five attempts, putting their title defence at a balance. The odds are for a Gor Mahia win but Kakamega will be determined to put in a show for their home fans.

 Head-to-Head Record: MP: 2; Wins: Gor Mahia 1-0 Homeboyz, 0 Draws

Last Meeting: Gor Mahia 1-0 Homeboyz (October 2013)

Prediction: Gor Mahia Win

Ushuru vs Mathare United, Saturday, 2pm at Nyayo Stadium

Mathare United’s surprising 2-0 loss to Nairobi City Stars not only saw them lose their first match but also surrender the top spot to AFC Leopards. The Slum Boys looked tired and uninterested in the tie and were duly punished by the often swift counter-attacking City Stars. Francis Kimanzi will be looking for a response against Ushuru FC who were also surprise winners in midweek, beating Muhoroni Youth 2-1 in Awasi. The taxman won both legs in this tie last season and have been the dominant side but they’ll need to be in top gear to make it three on the trot.

Head-to-Head Record: MP: 4; Wins: Ushuru 3-1 Mathare, 0 Draws

Last Meeting: Mathare United 1-3 Ushuru

Prediction: Draw

Nairobi City Stars vs AFC Leopards, Sunday 415pm at Nyayo Stadium

AFC Leopards ended matchday 6 on top and will be hoping they can remain there when they close the weekend proceedings on matchday 7. Goals from Eugene Ambulwa and Kepha Aswani saw them claw back to beat Kakamega Homeboyz 2-1, a result that put them atop the league. In Nairobi City Stars, their weekend opponents, they face a dangerous side who have scored four goals in their last two matches and helped Ingwe’s top of the table course by beating Mathare 2-0. Bobby Ogolla has instilled a never-say-die mentality on City Stars and that is what will drive them against Leopards who have won this tie in the last three occasions. Both sides posses pace upfront but whose defence will stand still?

Head-to-Head Record: MP: 14; Wins: AFC Leopards 7-3 City Stars, 4 Draws

Last Meeting: City Stars 1-2 AFC Leopards

Prediction: Leopards Win

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