Football

Gor Mahia hold the cards as their date with destiny awaits

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If Gor Mahia beat Muhoroni Youth on Sunday afternoon in Murang'a they will have secured their 21st league title

There are still four more rounds of league action left to witness in the 2023/24 FKF Premier League season but Round 31 may provide the season’s most pivotal moment with the anticipated coronation of Gor Mahia as league champions for a record 21st time, and the imminent relegation of Nzoia Sugar who have endured a miserable season.

Gor Mahia (1st with 64 points), who need only three points to defend their title, hosts relegation-threatened Muhoroni Youth (17th with 28 points) at the Sebastain Park in Murang’a County on Sunday in a 3 pm kick-off.

The match will also be Johnathan McKinstry’s last as Gor Mahia’s coach as the Northern Irishman is expected to jet out of the country on Sunday night to take over as the new coach of the Gambian national football team.

Success on Sunday will see McKinstry lead Gor Mahia to consecutive league titles hich will add to his victory over Kakamega Homeboyz in the FKF Charity Shield at the beginning of the season. McKinstry will leave K’Ogalo with the FKF Cup being the only trophy that eluded him during his reign.

While K’Ogalo hold their fate in their hands, they may become champions before kicking a ball on Sunday should Kenya Police FC (2nd with 54 points) fail to win against Tusker FC (3rd with 53 points) on Saturday in a 4-pm kick-off at the Police Sacco Stadium.

Muhoroni Youth will also be keeping an eye on Saturday’s matches with the hopes that fellow relegation-survival battle strugglers, Shabana (16th with 29 points), will slip up in their away match against Kariobangi Sharks (9th with 41 points) in a 3-pm kick-off at the Dandora Stadium.

Saturday’s other match will be the dead-rubber contest between Posta Rangers (8th with 43 points) and Kakamega Homeboyz (7th with 43 points) at the Police Sacco Stadium. The match, which will curtain raise the crunch game between Kenya Police and Tusker, will kick off at 1 pm.

While all three league matches played on Saturday will be televised, the league’s broadcasters will take a break on Sunday with four all matches, including Gor Mahia’s title-deciding match against Muhoroni Youth, scheduled to be played outside Nairobi.

Bandari FC (5th with 47 points) will finally host their first match at the Ukunda Showground in Kwale County as they host Sofapaka (15th with 31 points) at 3 pm. The dockers are winless in their last six league games (two defeats and four draws) and will be hoping the brief relocation to Ukunda Showground as their wait for renovation works to complete on their primary homeground, Mbaraki Sports Club, will start with a victory over Batoto ba Mungu who look forward to building on their 2-1 victory over Posta Rangers in Round 30 as they battle to ensure their presence in next season’s top flight competition.

The Mumias Sports Complex will host the weekend’s other crunch game as Nzoia Sugar (18th with 18 points) welcome Nairobi City Stars (6th with 47 points) at 3 pm. The sugarmen can delay their relegation from the top flight with victory over Simba wa Nairobi but those aspirations hinge on Muhoroni Youth and Shabana failing to win their matches against Gor Mahia and Kariobangi Sharks respectively.

In fact, Nzoia Sugar’s match against Nairobi City Stars may be robbed of its significance should Shabana win against Kariobangi Sharks on Saturday. A victory for the Glamour Boys will see their points tally to 32 hence sealing the fate of the Bungoma-based side who cannot surpass 30 points even if they win all their remaining matches.

Sunday will also mark a rare occasion when AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia have been scheduled to play on the same day in the league this season. Other than for their two league derby meetings, Sunday’s league fixtures will mark the 6th time this season that the two giants of Kenyan football are playing on the same day.

However, unlike Gor Mahia’s tie with Muhoroni Youth, AFC Leopards match with Bidco United at the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos County is of little significance in the title race. AFC Leopards, who are fourth with 47 points, will only be playing for pride against Bidco United who are 10th with 41 points. AFC Leopards are winless in their six league encounters against Bidco United (four defeats and two draws) and will be hoping to amend that record with a victory. Their match will kick off at 3 pm.

Monday’s league matches demonstrate the creativity of the league planners in scheduling Round 31 matches as KCB (11th with 37 points), Murang’a Seal (12th with 36 points), Ulinzi Stars (13th with 35 points), and Talanta (14th with 31 points) are the only teams playing on that day. Based on their positions on their log, it is striking that the four teams are the only ones playing on Monday. While the scheduling of their matches on Monday may create an impression that they are of little entertainment value, that is not entirely case.

Talanta will be fighting for their lives when they host KCB at the Dandora Stadium in a televised match that will kick off at 3 pm. Depending on the results in the Round 31 matches involving Muhoroni Youth, Sofapaka, and Shabana, Talanta may start the day in 17th place and therefore the prospect of being dragged into the relegation survival battle will motivate them to give their best against the Bankers.

Even though the sirens are blaring on them yet, Ulinzi Stars and Murang’a Seal will be going for each other’s jugular as they hope to ease their race to the magic 42 points; the barrier beyond which it becomes mathematically impossible for them to be relegated. Ulinzi Stars and Murang’a Seal will clash at the Ulinzi Sports Complex in a 3-pm kick-off.

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