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Glory beckons for Gor Mahia but Kenya Police not giving up hope

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Kenya Police FC takes on AFC Leopards in Dandora Stadium this afternoon while Gor Mahia will be away in Murang'a against KCB on Thursday

The home stretch of the 2023–24 FKF Premier League is shaping up with some interesting story lines as the competition enters Round 30.

With the fixtures taking place in midweek, Round 30 promises to test the teams' level of preparation and stretch players to the limit, seeing that there has been a turnaround of only 72–96 hours between their last matches.

How well the teams have managed rest and recuperation will show when they take to the pitch.

Even though there have been a few upsets in the form books in recent weeks, Round 30 promises to deliver some dramatic twists in regards to the title race and the relegation survival battle.

The embattled trio of Muhoroni Youth (17th with 27 points), Shabana (15th with 28 points), and Sofapaka (16th with 28 points) are all at home as they hope to reap maximum against Bandari (4th with 46 points), Talanta (14th with 30 points), and Posta Rangers (7th with 43 points), respectively, with the latter trio being equally desperate for victories to correct their recent poor form.

Victory for the former three will greatly change the dynamics of the relegation battle, as it would send Talanta into the relegation survival battle, a prospect that will heighten the entertainment value of the FKF Premier League with four rounds left to play.

The stakes are not as high for Bandari and Posta Rangers, but their desperation to finish higher in the league table would motivate them to give their best in their Round 30 assignments.

Ulinzi Stars, with 32 points in 13th place, is the other team watching the drama unfolding behind their back with a sense of worry that failure to get a win away to Bidco United (9th with 41 points) will put them in a precarious situation as they head into Round 30.

The Soldiers have won only once in their last nine league games, and nothing short of a victory in Round 30 has the potential to thrust them into the relegation survival battle in the coming rounds.

Murang'a Seal (12th with 35 points) vs. Kariobangi Sharks (10th with 40 points) appears to be a dead-rubber game, but John Makwata's scoring form has given it some significance. Makwata's predatory instinct has caught attention, and the former AFC Leopards and Nairobi City Stars attacker firmly put himself in the race for the golden boot in Round 29 when he scored a quadruple against Sofapaka.

Wednesday's fixtures provide a challenge for the Murang'a Seal to test their ability to stop the league's most in-form marksman, who, with 11 goals, trails only Kenya Police's Tito Okello (14 goals) and Gor Mahia's Benson Omalla (15 goals) in the race for the golden boot.

The presence of Omalla and Okello at the top of the scorer's chart is a reflection of the title race, which can effectively end in the next four days if Kenya Police (2nd with 54 points) fails to maintain the winning streak and league leader Gor Mahia (1st with 63 points) collects maximum points over the course of the next two rounds. Teams will play Round 31 matches over the weekend, marking another 72-hour turnaround after they conclude Round 30 matches.


Well, such a possibility is what highlights the hopes of K'Ogalo fans, who will be hoping that their eternal Mashemeji Derby rivals, the AFC Leopards (6th with 44 points), will accelerate Gor Mahia's march to a record 21st league title by getting a result against Kenya Police, a team that Ingwe has never lost to in the league (two wins and three draws).

AFC Leopards vs. Kenya Police in Round 30 will be a high-octane warm-up for their upcoming clash in the FKF semifinals on May 26.

While Gor Mahia hopes for Kenya Police to slip up so that they can wrap up the league early enough to allow their coach Jonathan McKinstry to take over as the new coach of the Gambia national football team without leaving some unfinished business in Kenya, the law enforcers must be fantasising about the 20-time league champions suffering a double blow over Round 30 and Round 31 so that they can cut their lead to three points and increase the pressure on the league leaders.

In Round 30, Gor Mahia travels to KCB. Even though the bankers have not been at their best over their last five league games, during which they have lost twice and drawn three times, they seem to reserve their best performance for Gor Mahia, against whom they have not lost in their last three league games (one win and two draws).

It is this tendency of KCB to frustrate Gor Mahia that makes their Round 30 encounter a decisive tie in deciding the destination of the league title.

Even among top teams, the likelihood of dead-rubber matches at this stage of the competition is typically high due to Kenyan football's lack of sufficient berths for qualification to CAF competitions.

With only the league winner and the FKF Cup champions earning the chance to represent Kenya in CAF competitions, teams that no longer feature in the title race or cannot be relegated only take to the pitch as a formality.

Such is the fate of the Nairobi City Stars (5th with 46 points) vs. Tusker FC (3rd with 52 points) match—a match that would have otherwise been relevant if the teams were still seriously in the title race or fighting for the CAF Competition slot.

That impression of a FKF PL match being a dead-rubber game is what befalls what would have been an otherwise entertaining Ingo derby league clash between Kakamega Homeboyz (8th with 41 points) and Nzoia Sugar (18th with 18 points).

Kakamega Homeboyz is no longer featured in the title, and their motivation to finish higher in the league is more a matter of pride than anything else.

On the other hand, however much one may want to accord respect to their ability to turn things around weighed on the propensity of football to serve miraculous relegation escape stories, Nzoia Sugar's fate seems sealed and they are destined to be relegated at the end of the season.

The fixes for FKF Round 30 are below.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Bidco United vs. Ulinzi Stars (12 p.m.) | Dandora Stadium, Nairobi

AFC Leopards vs. Kenya Police | 3 p.m. | Dandora Stadium, Nairobi

Kakamega Homeboyz vs. Nzoia Sugar, 3 p.m. | Mumias Sports Complex, Mumias

Muhoroni Youth vs. Bandari | 3 p.m. Muhoroni Stadium, Muhoroni

Murang'a Seal vs. Kariobangi Sharks | 3 p.m. Sebastian Park, Murang'a

Nairobi City Stars vs. Tusker (3 p.m. | Police Sacco Stadium, Nairobi)

Sofapaka vs. Posta Rangers | 3 p.m. | Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos

Shabana vs. Talanta | 3 p.m. | Raila Odinga Stadium, Homa Bay

Thursday, May 16, 2024

KCB vs. Gor Mahia at 3 p.m. | Sebastian Park, Murang'a

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