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Crunch time as Tusker, KCB race for CAF Champions League ticket

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Kenya’s representative at next season’s CAF Champions League will be known on Wednesday with league leaders KCB and Tusker FC chasing the slot.

The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) earlier had communicated that due to the deadlines set by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), whichever team tops the table by June 30 will qualify to represent the country in the Champions League.

The two-month stoppage occasioned by the restrictions enforced by the government to curb the spread of the COVID-10 pandemic, including the ban on sports saw the league halted and hence the calendar thrown into chaos.

CAF had communicated that Federations should present names of teams set to play in next year’s continental club matches by the end of June.

The battle will thus be on KCB and Tusker FC.

The bankers had a chance to leave fate in their own hands over the weekend as they just needed a victory away to Kakamega Homeboyz, but saw their efforts clipped after playing to a barren draw. With a win, KCB would have skipped Tusker to the top of the table.

They will be up against Nzoia Sugar at the Ruaraka Grounds on Wednesday, needing a win coupled by a drop of points by Tusker to earn the ticket to play continental football.

“We know it will be a tough match but we won’t let pressure get to us. We are just taking a match at a time and hopefully everything works out for us,” said KCB coach Zedekiah Otieno.

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KCB players line up before a past match

History and form will favour the bankers ahead of the fixture. Nzoia come into the tie having lost four of their last five matches including three in a row. KCB on the contrary have won three of their last five and are in good form.

In terms of head to head record, the two sides have met five previous times with KCB winning thrice and drawing one. Nzoia has only beaten the bankers once, and that was in the first leg this season. If they complete a double over Zedekiah Otieno’s men, they will not only crush their continental dreams but also give themselves a huge boost to come off the drop zone.

Meanwhile in Nakuru, Tusker FC will be away to Ulinzi Stars in what will be a tough battle. The first leg meeting between these two sides ended in a 1-0 victory for the brewers and they will seek to do the double and affirm a continental ticket.

Tusker just needs to win and care less of the result KCB posts in Nairobi. Coincidentally, the bankers will be playing in Tusker’s home ground, Ruaraka.

The brewers have lost cheap points on the way, including a 1-0 loss to Posta Rangers in a game they totally dominated in terms of chances. But against Ulinzi, there will be no room for mistakes as a loss or a draw would be detrimental in their hunt for a return to continental football.

“We are taking each match at a time and looking to do well. We are calm and composed and will give our best,” said Robert Matano, himself a former Ulinzi Stars coach.

They come up against an Ulinzi side which is in good form as they have not lost any of their last five games. The eighth placed soldiers have won three and drawn two. Their last match was a 0-0 draw with Sofapaka in Nairobi.

Tusker have only lost one of their last five, winning three and drawing one.

Meanwhile in other fixtures, AFC Leopards will look to keep their end of season title hopes alive when they take on a flailing Kariobangi Sharks at the Thika Stadium. Leopards are four points behind leaders Tusker and a win will take them even closer, if the brewers lose in Nakuru.

Sharks meanwhile need revival more than anything. They have seen themselves fall from title ambitions quicker than a pack of cards after losing five games in a row.

In Nairobi, Gor Mahia will be taking on Bandari FC at the Utalii Grounds, looking to bounce back after last weekend’s disappointing defeat to relegation fighting Western Stima.

KPL Midweek Games

Bidco United vs Kakamega Homeboyz, AFC Leopards vs Kariobangi Sharks (Thika), Gor Mahia vs Bandari (Utalii), Ulinzi Stars vs Tusker FC, Western Stima vs Sofapaka FC (ASK Showground, Nakuru), Nairobi City Stars vs Wazito KCB vs Nzoia Sugar (Ruaraka), Vihiga United vs Mathare United (Narok).

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