Harambee Stars of Kenya hosts Ghana’s Black Stars Saturday at Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium in an Afcon 2019 Group F qualifier laced with so much history.
Hosts Kenya will be itching to get their campaign back on track by at least avoiding defeat after losing 2-1 away to Sierra Leone last year in their group opener.
Meanwhile the visitors, who were off to a bright start, thumping Ethiopia 5-0 in Kumasi, will be gunning to solidify their grip at the top of the pile with another victory.
This tie will be ground breaking for both Kenya and Ghana who have never met competitively before at senior level.
Kenya are chasing an elusive return to the grandest stage of African football since Tunisia 2004 while four-time champions Ghana are eyeing eighth straight qualification.
Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne Wednesday named his final squad of 24 with captain Victor Wanyama conspicuously missing.
The Tottenham Hotspur’s midfielder, who is emerging from a nagging injury and has not featured in the Premier League this season, was reportedly advised by club doctors to stick behind to recover fully.
This however did not go down well with the French gaffer who felt Wanyama did not act professionally by snubbing the call up.
“Wanyama should have travelled to Kenya so that our medical staff can assess his injury.
“We should be a bit professional in such situations. We should change such attitudes going forward,” Migne said.
The former Congo Brazzaville U-20 coach remains positive of pulling an upset but holds that it will not be easy against Ghana side ranked 67 places above Kenya at position 45 by FIFA.
“It will be a huge task for us to try to win, we know Ghana is better than Kenya but in football nothing is impossible,” he said.
Kenya and Ghana have crossed swords seven times previously in friendlies and in “Simba Cup”, a 1996 invitational tournament in South Africa which also featured Australia.
The 2010 World Cup quarterfinalists boast a superior head to head record against the Harambee Stars in the meets with four wins including a record 13-2 defeat in Nairobi in 1965.
The match was staged at City Stadium, Nairobi and attended by former President Jomo Kenyatta as part of Kenya’s independence celebrations.
Kenyatta, who could not stand the slaughter left before the final whistle never to attend another football match till his death in 1978.
Ghana has also inflicted an identical 7-1 wins over Kenya twice (home and away).
Kenya’s sole win over Ghana came in 2003 when they shocked the Black Stars 3-1 away in an international friendly.
Migne is expected to employ a 4-4-2 formation while attacking and 4-3-3 in defending with Zesco United’s Anthony Akumu filling the void left by Wanyama in the holding midfield role.
Apart from Wanyama, two other crucial call-ups in Zesco United’s duo of defender and vice-captain David Owino and prolific striker Jesse Were are doubtful with injuries.
Belgium-based Johanna Omollo, Eric Johanna (Sweden) and Gor Mahia’s Francis Kahata completes the midfield jigsaw puzzle.
In defense David “Cheche” Ochieng’, Musa Mohammed (CD), Abud Omar (LB) and Philemon Otieno (RB) could start.
With Japan-based striker Michael Olunga and Ovella Ochieng’ of Sweden partnering in attack.
Kenya Probable Line-up (4-4-2)
Patrick Matasi (GK), David Ochieng’, Musa Mohammed, Abud Omar, Philemon Otieno, Anthony Akumu, Johanna Omollo, Francis Kahata, Eric Johanna, Michael Olunga, Ovella Ochieng’
Black Stars trainer Kwesi Appiah made the journey with twenty players excluding all-time top scorer and skipper Asamoah Gyan along with Andre Ayew and his brother Jordan Ayew.
The team crossed over to Nairobi Thursday evening from neighbouring Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where they have been training for the past few days.
The only new face in the squad is Royal Antwerp’s Williams Owusu who could be making his Ghana debut on Saturday if selected.
After four years absence from the national team, Inter Milan midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah makes a return and would be captaining the side to face Kenya on Saturday.
Appiah insists he will neutralize Kenya’s game plan on Saturday and cruise to victory.
“I have watched some videos of them,” Appiah said.
”This current game, they have invited some foreign players. Normally I don’t depend totally on what I have seen because tactically they could change their style of play and some players.
”The most important thing is that we prepare very well so that whoever comes we will be able to face them.
”We are planning tactically very well so that any game plan they bring on, we will be able to face them. We are preparing ourselves very well to go out there and try to get a win, it is not going to be easy.”
Kwesi Appiah will be deploying an attacking 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 to face the Harambee Stars on the weekend.
He is likely to opt for a 4-4-2 formation since it is an away game.
With Richard Ofori as the goalkeeper, Harrison Afful and Daniel Opare are expected to share the right and left back positions whilst one of Nicholas Opoku and Rashid Sumaila will partner Daniel Amartey in central defence.
Afriyie Acquah and Kwadwo Asamoah could be named in the midfield with Frank Acheampong and Christian Atsu on the right and left wings.
Thomas Partey would be joining Raphael Dwamena in attack.
Ghana’s Possible Starting Line-up (4-4-2)
Richard Ofori (GK) – Daniel Opare, Nicholas Opoku/Rashid Sumaila, Daniel Amartey, Harrison Afful – Afriyie Acquah, Kwadwo Asamoah, Frank Acheampong, Christian Atsu – Thomas Partey, Raphael Dwamena.
The game kick-off at 4.00pm EAT. Fans will have to part with Ksh. 1000 VIP and Ksh. 200 Russia to watch the match.
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