By Walid Bylka (Algeria) and Bonface Osano (Kenya)
Gor Mahia of Kenya will Wednesday play Algeria’s USM Alger in the CAF Confederation Cup Match Day 2 at Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani, Nairobi.
The Group “D” fixture will kick-off under floodlights at 7PM local time.
The game will be of historical significance to the hosts as it will be the first time a Confederation Cup group match will be staged on Kenyan soil.
USM head into the encounter as group leaders and favorites having thumped Yanga SC of Tanzania 4-0 in Match Day 1.
K’Ogalo, as Gor are famously known, on the other hand are placed second in the group standings after holding Rwanda’s Rayon Sports to a 1-1 draw away in Kigali in the same match day.
This will be the first time Gor will be facing an Algerian opposition at any level and it is tricky to predict what to expect Wednesday.
The Blacks and Reds can nonetheless find solace in the fact that Algerian clubs boast a better record against Kenyan sides and hope to continue the trend against the 16-times Kenyan champions.
In the 1976 CAF Champions Cup (now Champions League), USM’s local rivals MC Alger eliminated Luo Union on 7-3 aggregate at the quarterfinals.
Thirteen years later, JS Kabylie, another Algerian club, knocked out Gor’s arch rivals AFC Leopards from the Champions Cup at the second round.
Gor’s English coach Dylan Kerr admits to pressure on and off the field to deliver in this particular match having failed to pick maximum points against Rayon Sports in a match they dominated.
The former Simba SC manager will have to reorganize his line-up in the absence of suspended Ugandan-born Rwandan striker Meddie Kagere, who netted the lone goal against Rayon.
“With the absence of Meddie, we will have to change our system of play to make Jacques Tuyisenge and Emphrem Guikan confortable with each other,” Kerr said.
Meddie and Rwandan international Tuyisenge usually partner in attack but in the absence of the former, who accumulated two yellow cards, Ivorian forward Guikan is expected to slot in as a replacement.
Kerr tested this new pairing against touring English Championship side Hull City in a warm-up which played out to a barren draw at Kasarani Sunday.
“I believe in my players; they badly need this and we badly need it as well and the same applies to all fans in Kenya. We are going for a win and we hope to the necessary support,” he added.
USM Alger are battling a poor domestic form and are currently fifth in League 1 standings – outside the Champions League and the Confederation Cup qualification bracket with just one round to go.
Their last match before traveling to Nairobi was a 3-2 loss away to JS Kabylie in the domestic league on Friday.
The club’s only hope of playing continental football next year therefore lies in them winning this year’s Confederation Cup.
They will be without two key starters in prolific striker Oussama Darfalou, who is suspended for accumulating two yellow cards and Kaddour Beldjilali, who is injured.
Darfalou is the leading League 1 and Confederation top scorer with 18 and 5 goals respectively.
The team is therefore expected to play without a traditional striker and will probably use Faouzi Yaya, who is more of a playmaker, upfront.
The coach Miloud Hamdi’s charges absolutely destroyed Yanga SC in the 4-0 thumping with 69% possession and 20 shots compared to just two shots from the Tanzanians.
He bemoaned neglect by the hosts, who have since refuted the claims.
“We were neglected from the airport and were forced to pay for the training venue. Gor Mahia wanted us to sleep and avoid training till Tuesday,” the coach said.
“We never neglected anyone. The team was received well and have someone assigned the duty of taking the round and helping them with everything they need. We are a professional outfit,” Gor responded.
USM Alger will have a feel of the match day venue later today as allowed by the competition’s regulations.
Gor probable line-up
Oluoch, Shakava, Joash, Walusimbi, Philemon, Wendo, Mieno, Kahata, Odhiambo, Tuyisenge, Guikan
USM Alger probable line-up
Zemmamouche, Meftah, Chafaï, Benyahia, Abdellaoui, Benguit, Benkhemassa, Bouderbal, Meziane, Sayoud, Yaya
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