Newly appointed Rwandese tactician Cassa Mbungo will be thrown straight into the deep end on Saturday when he leads out a limping AFC Leopards for the Mashemeji Derby against arch-rivals Gor Mahia at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani.
The game comes barely four days after Mbungo was appointed to take charge of the team after the exit of Serb Marko Vasiljevic who has been in charge for only two months.
Mbungo, formerly with AS Kigali in Rwanda took charge of his first game on Wednesday just 24 hours after signing an 18-month deal and he got a rude welcome, his side losing 2-1 to relegation fighting Mount Kenya United.
Despite that defeat, Mbungo is still upbeat about the derby though he offers few words of what his side can expect from the fiery tie that brings Nairobi to a stand-still.
“It will be a good game. I know Gor Mahia is a tough team and they are currently doing good. I coached Mustafa (Francis) and Jack (Tuyisenge) so I know what threat they can pose. It will be hard turning things around at AFC because I have not been involved much with the signing and pre-season but I will do my best,” Mbungo noted.
AFC’s loss against Mount Kenya was their fourth in five games and they are currently languishing at 15th spot in the standings with 10 points from 11 games, only two shy of the automatic relegation slots.
Skipper Robinson Kamura has rallied his teammates to give their all in the tie and notes that this could be the turning point of their season.
“The derby knows no form. We have to give our best for this game because we know how much it means to the fans. We are of course not happy with the way results have been going for us but we will work as players to get back to the top,” Kamura said.
He added; “Gor is a good team with a lot of experience and we know it will not be easy.”
Ingwe come up against a Gor side that is swimming in improved form and have won five of their last six matches across all competitions, including the hugely morale boosting 4-2 win over Egyptian giants Zamalek in the CAF Confederations Cup.
Cypriot coach Hassan Oktay will also be handling his first derby and the tactician is confident his on-form charges will deliver results.
“The derby is an important match to everyone especially the fans and we need to work hard to get a result. AFC are not doing well now but that is not to say we will approach them easy. Everybody turns out different for the derby and we have to work hard to win,” the tactician added.
With the derby in the horizon, Oktay will have one eye on Wednesday’s CAF Confederations Cup trip away to Petro Atletico in Luanda, Angola, but Oktay sats that will not mean he will field a weakened side against their fiercest rivals.
Well, last season, former coach Dylan Kerr fielded a second string side against Leopards in the wake of a tight fixture in the Confederations Cup and they somwhow engineered a result.
On paper, Gor Mahia are huge favorites for the tie as over the last 22 league meetings, they have won 12 matches and lost five, the other five ending in draws.
The last time AFC beat Gor was in March 2016 when they won 1-0, but Gor has dominated the last six matches winning five and drawing one. Last season, Gor won the first leg 2-1 and return leg 2-0 and odds are hugely stocked for them to carry the day against their rivals.
K’Ogalo will have a clean bill of health with no injuries heading into the tie while AFC have plenty to worry about. Defender Isaac Oduro will be out same as midfielders Marvin Nabwire and Edward Seda. They might be boosted with the return of Victor Majid, but the midfielder has just returned to training and may not have hit the right notes of physical form for the tie.