Relegation Battle Intensifies As SPL Resumes

Sep 14 - by Louis Kalinga for sportpesa news

Only SportPesa Shield semi-finalists Tusker FC and Sofapaka FC will be missing in action this weekend

Cliff Nyakeya celebrates scoring against Kakamega Homeboyz FC in their SPL match played at Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos on September 1, 2018. PHOTO/Mathare United FC

  • Thika United FC (20)  are still rock-bottom of the 18-team log and face an uphill task when they take on champions Gor Mahia FC (71) on Sunday
  • In the opening game of the SPL weekend, another team battling to avoid the axe, Chemelil Sugar FC (28) host seventh-place Mathare United FC (42)
  • Second-place Bandari FC (54) who opened up a six-point gap between them and third-place Leopards, travel to Zoo FC (33) in the last game of the weekend

NAIROBI, Kenya- The battle to remain in the top flight of Kenyan football intensifies this weekend as the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) resumes following a rather eventful international break.

Thika United FC (20), who barely survived the drop last season under head coach Nicholas Muyoti, are still rock-bottom of the 18-team log and face an uphill task when they take on champions Gor Mahia FC (71) on Sunday.

Thika are on the back of six consecutive losses and anything other than three points for the milkmen will all but ensure that they will be playing in the National Super League (NSL) next season.

Last season, the team held on to their SPL status by winning the first ever SPL/National Super League play-off 2-1 on aggregate against Ushuru FC who finished third in the second tier having avoided automatic relegation on the very last day of the campaign that saw Western Stima FC and Muhoroni Youth FC go down.

As recently as 2014, Thika finished fifth and were tipped to vie for the title the next year but the wheels came off and could only muster a 12th placing in 2015 before attempts to relegate them for not complying with the CAF Club Licensing rules were rebuffed by the Sports Dispute Tribunal.

Second from last are debutants Wazito FC (27) who will also be seeking a win that will lift them above the relegation zone when they take on fifth-place Ulinzi Stars FC (44) in the first game of Sunday.

In the opening game of the SPL weekend, another team battling to avoid the axe, Chemelil Sugar FC (28) host seventh-place Mathare United FC (42).

Agwanda form

The sugar millers are in 16th place and have not managed a single win in their past five matches and will need to change that if they are to remain on course to secure a place in the top flight next season.

Only eight points separate third place AFC Leopards SC (48) and ninth-place Posta Rangers FC (40) who take to the pitch on Saturday afternoon, with Ingwe seeking to bounce back following a shock 2-1 defeat to Wazito in the last round of matches.

“I will give a report to the National Executive Committee at the end of the season and then the club will decide which players will go and which ones to sign in order to boost the team.

 “Its very import that the NEC and myself reach the same conclusion to fight for the league next season. Leopards have a bright future with these young boys,” Zapata stated.

 Zapata has an injury-ravaged team with defenders Dennis Sikhayi, Robinson Kamura, Abdallah Salim and Moses Mburu as well as playmakers Jafari Owiti, Marvin Nabwire and Saad Musa carrying various knocks but the Argentine is optimistic his team will ground a result.

Vihiga United FC (30) also aren’t assured of safety yet and will need to put on a brave performance to halt rising Sony Sugar FC (37), who have only lost once in their last six outings.

Sony will bank on star striker Enock Agwanda, who won the SportPesa/Sports Journalists Association of Kenya July Player Award, to continue his sublime run of goal-scoring form.

Second-place Bandari FC (54) who opened up a six-point gap between them and third-place Leopards, travel to Zoo FC (33) in the last game of the weekend.

SPL FIXTURES

Saturday

Chemelil Sugar FC vs Mathare United FC – 3PM

Nakumatt FC vs Kariobangi Sharks FC – 3PM

AFC Leopards SC vs Posta Rangers FC – 4:15PM

Sunday

Ulinzi Stars FC vs Wazito FC – 2PM

Kakamega Homeboyz FC vs Nzoia Sugar FC – 3PM

Thika United FC vs Gor Mahia FC – 3PM

Vihiga United FC vs Sony Sugar FC – 3PM

Zoo FC vs Bandari United FC – 4:15PM