Kenya’s most supported clubs have struggled over the last two seasons, Leopards the worst hit with almost their entire squad leaving at the end of the 2015 season.
Gor, in contrast has a huge number of players, tried and tested as far as the biggest game of the first halve of the season is concerned. They have been slower in their start to the season, starting off 1-0 loss to Bandari FC in the Super Cup then going on to exit the Orange CAF Champions League at the preliminary round due to a 3-1 aggregate loss to Madagascar champions CNaPS.
‘K’Ogalo’ as they are nicknamed, haven’t fared better either in the league. They have drawn all their three opening matches, a sharp contrast of their invincible form in 2015 when they were on a 100 per cent record at the same stage.
Like the usual saying, form counts for nothing in a derby. Gor skipper Jerim Onyango has played in all but the 2015 derby since 2008. The goalkeeper recently returned to goal after last year’s first choice Boniface Oluoch was dropped to the bench.
The shot-stopper has been instrumental and in all the three league matches, single-handedly ensuring ‘K’Ogalo’ returned with at least a point. He is the most experienced player in the squad with 233 matches in the green and white colours of Gor.
Gor coach Coach Frank Nuttall faces uncertainty over the fitness of two of his key players, left back Abouba Sibomana and midfielder Khalid Aucho, both expected to pass late fitness tests to determine their fate.
Nuttall has steered Gor in only two derbies, both in 2015. The first ended 1-1 while the second ended prematurely due to crowd troubles, with both sides tied at 0-0. He expects to get his first derby bragging rights this weekend though he plays his cards close to his chest.
“It is a tough match; all derbies are. But for us, focus is mostly on the three points just like any other match. Nothing special,” Nuttall said.
Among the freshest faces to cross over to Gor having played for Leopards are striker Jacob Keli and defender Jackson Saleh. Keli played for Leopards until last June when he moved to Zambian side Nkana FC but was unsuccessful. Upon his return, he signed for Gor.
Saleh was part of the exodus that left Leopards at the end of the 2015 season but has yet to taste action for Gor.
Leopards’ new Belgian coach Ivan Minnaert will be taking charge in his first ‘Mashemeji derby’. The tactician was appointed last week after quitting Rwandese giants Rayon Sport and took charge of his first match on Wednesday, Leopards winning 1-0 over Bandari FC.
He knows a thing or two about derbies having been in Mali with Djoliba, Libya with Al Ittihad Tripoli and lately Rwanda with Rayon.
“Derbies are always very interesting matches and we are ready for this. Our focus is to keep playing well and keep winning,” Minnaert said.
Leopards are second on the Premier League table with seven points after winning twice and drawing once in their opening three games of the season, and will be heavily relying on the experience of number one goalie Indeche, and winger Clifton Miheso who returned home after a two year stint in Norway.