Kotoko will put Hearts’ title aspirations to a strenuous test when the two bitter rivals square up in Ghana’s version of the ‘El Clasico’ and the topliner of Week 21.
In the 103 matches between the two sides, Hearts have bagged 34 wins, 33 for Kotoko with 36 encounters ending in stalemate.
One cycle that seems to be popping up in matches involving the two clubs especially games played in Kumasi, the fortress of the Porcupine Warriors (Kotoko), is the fact that the Rainbow Boys (Hearts) are gradually becoming the kings of the turf in the Garden City, having recorded more wins.
In the last 12 games in Kumasi between the two sides, Kotoko has managed only two wins - 2-0 and 2-1 in 2001 and 2012. Hearts on the otherhand, have managed five wins: 3-1 (2005), 2-1 (2009), 1-0 (2010), (2011) and (2015); with the other five failing to produce a winner.
The build-up to the game has been low key for the first time in as many years, after Kotoko suffered a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Ebusua Dwarfs in Cape Coast mid-week, a result that has affected the aura that surrounds such a cliff-hanger with a section of the Porcupine faithful unhappy with the recent performances of their adored club.
But Assistant coach, Godwin Ablordey, a club icon, is upbeat they have corrected their mistakes and are ready to bounce back against their bitterest rivals.
“What happened on Wednesday (referring to 4-1 defeat to Cape Coast) is past and gone. We have a game against Hearts and trust me we are ready to beat Hearts of oak and we would stop at nothing to make that happen,” said the former Kotoko captain.
According to him, all they need is for the fans to fill the stands and cheer the players to victory.
For Hearts trainer, Portuguese Sergio Daniel Moniz Traguil, it will be his first taste of the Ghana derby, but he believes his side will emerge victorious.
“I knew Asante Kotoko before coming to Ghana, I have monitored their previous game and studied their play and would come up with a game plan that will see them on the losing side.”
Traguil is the least perturbed by the outcome of the first leg in Accra, where an own goal by goalkeeper Abdoulaye Soulama won the game for Kotoko, and will give the former Kotoko goalie the opportunity to man the post if he is deemed fit.
A win for the Phobians will give more credence to the saying that the ‘Rainbow lads’ are indeed the kings of Kumasi whereas Kotoko can close the gap at the summit where the former are five points clear.