Nairobi — A confident Jose Marcelo Ferreira is optimistic that Gor Mahia's chances of winning the Kenyan Premier League title this season are enhanced especially looking at the quality he brought in during the December/January transfer window.
The Brazilian coach says he has a lot of depth in his squad, and this season, he will have freedom to play with more tactical shapes than he did in 2016.
Gor played with a 3-5-2 formation against Kariobangi Sharks in their season opening 3-1 win on Sunday, but the coach says they will change the system often depending on the opponents.
"I have a lot of players with great quality and we can play any system. I have a lot of solutions this year because of the quality of players in the team," Ze Maria says.
He also admits picking his starting 11 for any match has become a headache. "I am happy... every coach wants this difficulty, I am happy for the team because we have many players in each position and that is good because when any of them come on, they have to give 100 per cent on the field."
Among the notable players Ze Maria brought into the fold include Rwandese Jean Baptise Mugiraneza and KPL player of the year Kenneth Muguna, two players he picked out for their decent performance in the 3-1 win over Sharks on Sunday.
He says the two have a strong personality and good quality and having them in his side gives him a sense of security especially noting they can play across various positions in the centre of the pack.
Among other midfield players Gor has in their fold include Francis Kahata, Philemon Otieno and former City Stars man Oliver Maloba.
The tactician was impressed with the opening day win over Sharks and he says it is a good springboard for them to go for the title.
"It was a good but very tough game because we played against a small team and these kinds usually give 200 per cent on the pitch. I am happy for my players and their performance and it shows that our mentality has grown," Ze Maria noted.
He added; "It is very important (to win the first match) because last year when I came they drew the first four matches and lost one. It is different this year because we have had a lot of time to train, we made a lot of mistakes in pre-season but now it is different when we are playing in the official matches."
With the result, Gor Mahia are second on the log behind new comers Nzoia United who blitz past defending champions Tusker in Nakuru on Saturday.
-Nzoia blitz Tusker-
Nzoia head coach Bernard Mwalala was impressed with his side's win and described it as a huge shock.
"I knew we might pull a surprise and win or maybe get a draw, but a margin as big as this is scary. It is a good start and we hope to continue like this. It gives us the necessary push going forward," Mwalala, himself a former Nzoia United player said.
He is confident his boys will not be carried away by the result adding they have put it behind their backs and now focus on the next match.
For holders Tusker, the pressure cooker is building more momentum as new head coach George 'best' Nsimbe now goes four competitive matches without a win with three straight losses.
The Ugandan tactician admitted they made a lot of errors in their league opening match and says they will go back to the drawing board as they seek to address their weak areas.
"We have to go back and see why we lost like that. We have to look at these four games and know what we need to address. One of the things is that we have been conceding goals and we need to know what to do to stop that. Yes, the pressure is building but I believe we can contain it," Nsimbe offered.
Tusker's next assignment will be against Thika United at the Thika sub-County Stadium on Sunday and the brewers will be hoping for a change in fortunes.
Thika lost their opening match as well going down 3-2 to Mathare United.
Head coach James Nandwa is however pleased with the performance and believes they can build on that heading into the Tusker duel to pick their first win of the season.
Thika struggled last season and fought to evade relegation for almost the entirety of the season, but Nandwa believes they will have a different fate this time round.
"We have a very good team and the long pre-season has enabled us to gel very well. Against Mathare we played very well especially noting we missed most of our key players. It was an encouraging performance though there are a few things we need to improve on," Nandwa, a former AFC Leopards and Tusker FC coach noted.
KPL WEEKEND RESULTS
Saturday: Tusker FC 2 Nzoia United 5 (Afraha Stadium), Bandari FC 1 Nakumatt 0 (Mbaraki Complex).
Sunday: Mathare United 3 Thika United 2, Kariobangi Sharks 1 Gor Mahia 3 (Thika Stadium), Sony Sugar 0 Chemelil Sugar 2 (Awendo Stadium), Zoo Kericho 0 Posta Rangers 1 (Afraha Stadium).
A lover of sports who seeks to tell the African story in an African way. Top ten finalist of the Abu Dhabi Sports Media Pearl Awards. Be it on the pitch, court, track, pool or course, the story will be told. On twitter @KakaTimm