Last year, Leopards shared two draws with Mathare United. That is enough to tempt some pundits to call tonight's game another draw.
Supersport previews the match with Collins Okinyo calling a draw
Mathare United Vs AFC Leopards (Nyayo Stadium)
It’s been a terrible season for Mathare United who find themselves second from bottom with only eleven points.
Coach Salim Ali is feeling the pressure after losing two and drawing two of their last four matches which has seen the team slide into the relegation zone.
They face an AFC Leopards side that has undergone major changes in recent weeks. The club released nine players and is in the process of recruiting their replacements.
Since his appointment, Coach Nick Yakhama has won just one match and he needs a win quieten murmurs of discontent.
Our Prediction: 1-1
KenyanStar has a very good preview by Timothy Olubolu.
Tonight from 7pm, Nyayo national stadium will be graded H: HOT!
A battle royale is already looming as AFC Leopards visit Mathare United in a clash that is most likely set to determine the future of the two teams in the league running. For the first time this season, Mathare United find themselves in an unfamiliar relegation spot, plabted on 15th place with 11 points out of 13 matches, after Saturday’s 0-2 loss at the hands of Nairobi City Stars.
Since their 2-1 beating by Sony Sugar on 21st of May, AFC leopards have not kicked a ball in the league and have had a massive 25 days to prepare for their next league assignment. Well, since then, 9 players were released by the club and they are yet to be replaced with rumors of transfers but no confirmed move.
Mathare Coach Salim Ali is a worried man especially with the reality sinking hard and soft like snow of his crew being in the cut zone. He says that hope is not lost and he is optimistic of a positive result when he plays tonight.
“It is not a good feeling when your team is at a position you are not used to. You have to work hard and I will be aiming for maximum points when I play AFC Leopards. It is a big team, they have a good work rate so I will take them head on”, he says.
His opposite number Nick Yakhama is a besieged man. After telling AFC Leopards fans that winning the league was a far-fetched Idea, he seems to have ignited a cold war with a section of fans who see this as a sign of giving up.
He will be a man who must win tonight’s match so as to regain confidence with the supporters. He however is highly optimistic that a good result will brew out of the Nyayo Stadium tonight. Placed at 10th with 16 points out of 12 matches, winning the match will slide them up the ladder.
“I am confident of a win. We have prepared well for this match. We want to put ourselves on a good position by the time we end the first leg. So we are beginning with wrapping up these three points from Mathare”, he says.
Out of their four meetings between the two since 2009, both have won a piece while the remaining two remained draws. In 2009, Mathare won the first leg when they were playing home, beating the Leopard 1-0. In the return leg, Ingwe sharpened its claws to beat the slum boys 2-1.
In 2010, AFC Leopards played home in the first leg with the game ending in a 1-1 stalemate with the second leg being dramatic and ending 3-3 with Ekene Emekwe equalizing for AFC in the 90th minute. Mathare scored first through Andrew Tololwa, before AFC equalized through Demonde Selenga, now out of the club. Ingwe added a second through Joseph Okumu before Dennis Nzomo equalized for Mathare. They went a goal up via John Mburu, and Ekene equalized in the 90th minute just as AFC fans were trooping out of the Stadium in disappointment.
Will it be as thrilling today as it was last season? Be at the Nyayo Stadium from 7pm to enjoy the action.
In the mainstream newspapers, it is the Standard that features a preview of the match by Gilbert Wandera.
Mathare United coach Salim Ali says his team will be looking to bounce back from a poor start to the season with a positive result against AFC Leopards on Thursday evening at the Nyayo National Stadium.
The match kicks off at 7pm and will be live on SuperSport and is one of the two Kenyan Premier League (KPL) matches lined-up for on Thursday.
The other one is a clash between Western Stima and Sofapaka. Afc leopards
Ali has predicted that on Thursday will be the turning point for a club that has struggled to live up to their good performance in the previous years.
"We believe we can collect all three points today and end our poor show. We hope to start the second leg on a positive note and it will be important that we win not only today but also against Bandari at the weekend," he said.
Ali has also warned that the club risks being relegated if they do not sign at least two senior players in this transfer window.
"There is no short-cut to ending our poor start. If we do not get some senior players the results will be the same in the second leg," he warned.
He added: "Everybody is pointing out that we are having a bad season and they are right but one thing they forget is that in the last ten years we have always had quality players and even when they go we have managed to quickly replace them.
"What is happening this season is that we are losing quality players to our opponents without replacing them with the same calibre and unless we do something drastic we are in trouble.
"The players we have cannot give us the kind of performance we are looking for because they lack the experience to play at this level. We need the kind of players who can give us a consistent performance," he added.
Ali’s woes are unlikely to end with the Mathare management not keen on buying players from outside the Mathare Youth Sports Association.
Pressure will, however, be on both teams to turn around what has been a less than satisfactory season.
It has been a surprising season for Mathare, one that they would want to end quickly.
The club used to being among the top contenders in the KPL find themselves among the bottom in the standings and recently lost 2-0 to fellow tail-enders Nairobi City Stars.
On the other side, Leopards are doing no better and lost their last fixture 2-2 to Sony. Coach Nick Yakhama is a man under pressure to deliver. Former Nairobi City Stars forward Jimmy Bagaye is expected to play his first match for Leopards on Thursday and a score from him will be a positive way to start his AFC career.
Coach Ali will therefore be looking to turn around a poor season with a win over AFC.
The Nation has a short preview by Odindo Ayieko
Meanwhile, Mathare United, champions in 2008 who are now threatened with relegation, have a chance to move off the second-last spot when they face Leopards at Nyayo on Thursday.
Mathare have won only two of their 13 games and have 11 points, same as bottom-placed Nairobi City Stars.
They meet a Leopards side boosted by new arrivals – Francis Chinjili from Western Stima, Jimmy Bagaye (City Stars) and Charles Okwemba (Rangers).
The poor showing by Mathare has their coach, Salim Ali, concerned. “Of course we are in an unfamiliar territory and we have to pull up our socks,” he said.
“We have 17 games remaining, so there is still a chance we can finish in a good position. But we have to start winning.”