Kenya Defence Forces side Ulinzi Stars come up against Egyptian side Smouha on Friday evening at the Borg al Arab Stadium in Alexandria in a CAF Confederation Cup first round, first leg encounter.
Ulinzi coach Benjamin Nyangweso has managed expectations by admitting that he will miss departed striker John Mark Makwatta in this particular game, but is still hopeful that his boys will post good results in the potentially bruising away match.
“The outcome of the game is unpredictable. I cannot say that we shall win, but it is my hope that we shall come back from Egypt with a good result. Winning is dependent on preparations so since we have already concluded our preparations, what remains for us is to give our best during the game.
“Makwatta is already gone and we wish him the best. His absence will definitely be felt but now the other players have a chance to prove their capabilities as well,” he said.
Makwatta, was the soldiers’ top scorer of two successive season since he was acquired from Nairobi City Stars two years ago. He is destined for FC Nitra in the Slovakian second division.
Long serving forward Kevin Amwayi, who has been a key member of Ulinzi’s strike force for the last three years has been redeployed by the military, and will not play any role for Ulinzi this season.
This means that the burden of delivering goals now lies squarely on youngster Baron Oketch, who is on loan from Gor Mahia, opportunistic attacker Enosh Ochieng and veteran Oscar Wamalwa.
To get to this stage, Ulinzi eliminated Libyan side Al Hilal Benghazi 5-4 on post-match penalties on February 18. The soldiers had lost 1-0 in the away match played in Cairo but returned the favour with a 1-0 win in the home match two weeks later in Nairobi to necessitate a penalty shootout.
The soldiers, after squeezing through from the preliminary round, will be aware that Smouha are perennial participants in CAF competitions, and even reached the Champions’ League group stages in 2015.
The 68-year-old Smouha Sports Club has never won any major Egyptian title, but were runners up in both the Egyptian Premier League and Egyptian domestic cup in 2014.
Friday’s encounter will kick off at 6pm local time (7pm Kenyan time) and will be officiated by Sudanese referees Mahmood Ali Mahmood, Haitham Ahmed and Mohamed Ahmed.
Ulinzi Stars tour party: Goalkeepers - James Saruni (captain), Jacktone Odhiambo; Defenders - Brian Birgen, Omar Mbongi, Geoffrey Kokoyo, Mohammed Hassan, Ben Sande, Cylus Shitote; Midfielders - Boniface Onyango, Samuel Onyango, John Kago, Daniel Waweru, Stephen Ochollah, Churchill Muloma, Justine Onwong’a; Forwards- Oscar Wamalwa, Baron Oketch, Enosh Ochieng