New Year. New Teams. But the urge of winning remains the same. The Kenyan Premier League (KPL) season 2018 kicks off this weekend with Wazito FC and Vihiga United the new entrants to the showpiece, replacing Muhoroni Youth and Western Stima who will now be participating in the National Super League (NSL).
Just like in the past two seasons, Our Octopus will be predicting how games will pan out in the next 34 weeks with the aim of helping the betting lovers add a few dimes in their pockets and week One couldn’t have come at a better time when everyone is glad to have seen through the 90 days of January.
Chemelil Sugar FC v Tusker FC
If head to head records are to have a say in this game, then we have to go back to 23rd April 2014 when Chemelil last managed a win over the brewers; Innocent Wafula, now at Gor Mahia notching the winner in the 90th minute. This added to the fact that Tusker now has a player in Apollo Otieno who was a cog in the 2016 Chemelil team, it is hard to see where he home team will get the motivation to topple the Sam Timbe coached side.
Verdict: Chemelil Sugar FC 1-2 Tusker FC
Gor Mahia FC v Nakumatt FC
Gor Mahia did a double over Nakumatt FC in 2017; that being the shoppers first season in the top flight. They were narrow wins although going by how both teams have fared in their preseason preps, Gor Mahia are miles ahead of their opponents. As late as two weeks ago, Nakumatt were yet to decide on the players that were going to represent the team this season with their coach Anthony Mwangi admitting earlier that they were behind schedule.
This game marks the return of Gor Mahia to Machakos County since 2014 when they were handed a ban by the county boss Alfred Mutua; there is no way they would want to lose this as they need to boost their morale heading into their CAF Champions League assignments that follow.
Verdict: Gor Mahia FC 2-0 Nakumatt FC
Ulinzi Stars v Zoo Kericho FC
Believe it or not, Zoo Kericho’s first win in the top flight came against Ulinzi Stars after a disastrous start in 2017, with the second leg of the tie ending in a barren draw. In simple terms, Ulinzi are yet to beat Zoo in a competitive clash. Billed as the David v Goliath clash, Ulinzi will be starting the season under new management and they would want to hit the ground running and right the wrongs they did last season but it’s easier said than done; a draw won't be a bad result for the first game of the KPL 2018 season.
Verdict: Ulinzi Stars 1-1 Zoo Kericho
Nzoia Sugar FC v Kariobangi Sharks FC
Sharks did a double over Nzoia in a battle of newbies last season with this fixture ending in a 2-0 win with Nzoia old boy Bolton Omwenga and Patilah Omoto doing the damage with well taken free kicks.
Nzoia started the 2017 season on a resounding note and will hope that they can replicate their performance over Sharks in the NSL two years ago when they recorded two wins, one draw and a loss. Another draw should be on the cards, with both teams having lost some of their dependable strikers in Masita Masuta and Masoud Juma who have since joined Ulinzi Stars and Cape Town City respectively.
Verdict: Nzoia Sugar FC 1-1 Kariobangi Sharks
Vihiga United FC v Mathare United FC
For some reason, Michael Isabwa’s debut season in the top flight did not go as planned after he ditched Vihiga for Kariobangi Sharks but the winger has stated that he is back to cover for the lost time. Having troubled ‘big teams’ in cup competitions, coach Edward Manoah will feel that this is the stage to do what he does best. They welcome a Mathare United side who struggled in 2017 but has maintained a lot of youths who did duty for the team in their season. They have added some experienced players too in their ranks and would like to lay a mark early enough lest they be playing catching games later in the season. As much prepared as both teams are, this is another game that could end in a draw.
Verdict: Vihiga United 0-0 Mathare United.
Sofapaka FC v Bandari FC
Going by the preparations by both teams, this is another close call. In the just concluded Sharks preseason tournament, Bandari played their hearts out but it was evident that they still needed time to be able to play as a team. Sofapaka have some good players in their ranks and coach Sam Ssimbwa should be ready to face the coastal team without some of his dependable players due to injuries but he should parade a team that wins them their first game of the season.
Verdict: Sofapaka FC 2-1 Bandari FC
Posta Rangers FC v AFC Leopards
Game of the week is reserved for last on Saturday with AFC Leopards for the second week running having to play at the Afraha Stadium, this time against Posta Rangers FC. Of the teams who have done good business in the just concluded window, Rangers is in the mix. Leopards will have to cage their former forward, Marcellus Ingotsi who just moved to the Mailmen and will be out to remind the people residing at the den that they were wrong to let him leave.
After last week’s loss at the hands of arch rivals Gor Mahia, coach Robert Matano would not want to go down in this tie but he will have to find a team that conjure that trick against a Rangers side whom they have not beaten in their last five meetings.
Verdict: Posta Rangers 1-0 AFC Leopards
Wazito FC v Sony Sugar FC
Wazito FC means business; these are not my words but rather those of their head coach Frank Ouna who has maintained that their main aim this season is to stay in the league. The coach couldn’t have wished for a better opponent in their opening game of the season in Sony Sugar who are forced to come to terms with the loss of George Abege, Amos Asembeka and Justin Omari who were key members of the team last season. The game will be staged at the Camp Toyoyo Grounds, a venue that Wazito rarely lost at in their NSL campaign last year.
Verdict: Wazito FC 3-1 Sony Sugar FC
Thika United v Kakamega Homeboyz FC
In football, luck plays a major role and this can be said of Thika United who hung on last season to force a playoff in which they overcame Ushuru FC to preserve their top flight status. They haven’t done the best of business in the just wrapped up transfer window but under coach Nicholas Muyoti, the Thika Sub County Stadium was more of a fortress and they will be banking on the home support to be able to topple Homeboyz who have done good business in the transfers. In Allan Wanga, Edwin Wafula and James Situma they have players who won all their last five games against Thika when they were in Tusker colours.
Verdict: Thika United 0-2 Kakamega Homeboyz