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Gor, Sharks brace for tough continental ties

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By VINCENT OPIYO
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SportPesa Premier League (SPL) champions Gor Mahia and SportPesa Shield winners Kariobangi Sharks’ preparations for the 2018/2019 Confederation of African Football (Caf) inter-club competitions will be subjected to sharp test this week.
Sharks will make their continental bow against Djibouti’s Arta Solar in the Caf Confederation Cup preliminary round first leg at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on Tuesday. Gor host Malawi giants Nyasa Big Bullets in the Caf Champions League preliminary round first leg on Wednesday at the same venue.
Caf is transitioning continental inter-club competition from the traditional February to November calendar to August-May one. This was ratified by Caf Executive Committee in July last year.
The changes gave Kenyan representatives little time to prepare as they finished their domestic league on October 7 while Cup matches were decided on October 20.
Gor have had a packed schedule as they regrouped early to prepare for their friendly with English premiership side Everton on November 6. Sharks reported to camp after their Mashujaa Day triumph over Sofapaka.
After a historic 4-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park, K’Ogalo broke camp for 10 days only to resume amidst off pitch sideshows with players protesting delayed October salaries.
The player protests led to the cancellatio of their four-day preseason camp in Nakuru throwing coach Zedekiah Zico Otieno’s plans into disarray. The winner of the Gor clash will face off with the winner between Cameroon’s USM de Loum or Nigerian out Lobi Stars in the second round with winner eventually earning a slot in the Caf Champions League group stages.
The draw for the Champions League group stage and Confederation Cup round of 16 will be conducted on December 28 in Cairo, Egypt to get underway on January 11.
Gor’s shambolic preparations to this fixture will be tested by an in form Nyasa side who warmed up to this encounter with a resounding 5-0 win over Chitipa United in the Malawi Challenge Cup quarterfinal match on Friday.
“Every coach prepares to win and is no different for us, we want to utilize the home advantage in this game,” Gor interim coach Otieno told Nation Sport.
Sudanese referee Adel Mukhtar will be the man at the centre in the Wednesday clash assisted by compatriots Haitham Elnour and Elmoiz Ali while Mutaz Khairalla will serve as the fourth official.
Sharks’ opponents Arta Solar jetted into the country on Sunday morning. Nyasa Bullets, who top the 16-team Malawi top tier league table on 61 points with four matches to go, were scheduled to touch down on Sunday evening.
Somali officials have been appointed to take charge in this game. Nur Muhudin will be the centre referee running alongside countrymen Ali Mohamed and Abdi Nour with Hassan Hagi the reserve referee.
The winner between Sharks and Arta Solar faces Ghanaian giants Asante Kotoko who were handed a bye to the first round after Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) officials delayed to submit Edding Sport as their representative in this competition.
Tickets will be purchased on the material day at Sh500 VIP and Sh200 regular.
Sharks’ game against the Djibouti side will be accessed at Sh100 flat rate.

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CONTINENTAL FIXTURES
Tuesday – Caf Confederation Cup
Kariobangi Sharks v Arta Solar (Djibouti) – MISC Kasarani, 4pm
Wednesday – Caf Champions League
Gor Mahia v Nyasa Big Bullets (Malawi) – MISC Kasarani, 7pm

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