Nairobi — Just before they face arch rivals Gor Mahia FC in the highly anticipated Mashemeji Derby, AFC Leopards could be thinking of hiring a fourth coach in the span off less than a year with current boss Rodolfo Zapata hinting he might be thinking of his future already.
The Argentine tactician who arrived at the den in June from Botswana's Gaborone United has hinted that 'AFC Leopards will be strong even without' me even as he dodged questions on whether or not rumors of his supposed exit from the club are true.
"I am focused on the game now; we will talk about that after this game. But, even without me Leopards has a bright future because chairman has a good taste to choose young players who are good for the future. We need to talk, we need to build the program for the future to have clear ideas," the tactician said during his team's penultimate training session before the derby.
According to various sources within the club, Zapata feels frustrated of interference from outside forces and he feels he needs more control of the team.
Zapata is said to have told the club's management that he will be leaving his position after the derby. Nonetheless, the tactician has said he will not dwell much on that until after the game, instead choosing to focus on the task at hand, beating their arch rivals.
AFC has met Gor twice already this season, losing 1-0 in the season opening Kenyan premier League Charity Cup while their second meeting was on May 1 during the Hull City play-off match which they lost on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
The tactician expects a tough game against the unbeaten Gor who have a healthy 13 point difference against their bitter rivals who are placed fifth in the standings.
"It is going to be a very difficult game. Derbies all over the world are very difficult. I respect Gor Mahia and coach Dylan Kerr. He has a very good number of excellent players in his team and has so many options. This is going to be a very tactical game," the tactician noted.
He believes the fact that Gor have come off a tight list of fixtures over the last two weeks will not be a problem, especially having watched them dismantle Yanga 4-0 in Wednesday in the CAF Confederations Cup.
Tactically, Zapata believes that the game will be won or lost in the midfield, saying his side must dominate that area of the pitch if they are to have any chance ot bagging the three points and bragging rights.
But even as he plans to win the game from the middle of the pack, Zapata will be without two key ingredients in that particular area, skipper Duncan Otieno missing as he has been suspended after picking five yellow cards while Brian Marita is out injured.
The tactician will also miss the services of defender Robinson Kamura and new Nigerian import Alex Orotomal both who are also out injured.
"They are important players in the team and we will miss them but this should not be an excuse. We have a lot of great talented players and they are going to show they are equally good on the pitch," the coach said.
In the absence of Kamura in defense, Zapata will look on to youngster Michael Kibwage who gathered minutes of playing time early in the season but found himself out of favor since the Argentine's arrival.
In midfield, Otieno's absence will be sealed by Edward Seda who will partner Marvin Nabwire and Whyvonne Isuza.
"If you play good football you have chances to win and that's what we will do. We will need to do a lot of pressing in the middle and ensure when we are without the ball we get it back within five seconds, I have excellent players in midfield so we are going to fight," the tactician added.
AFC have lost 10 of their last 20 meetings with Gor Mahia across all competitions, winning only five and drawing a similar number.
The two sides are having different seasons in the KPL with Gor Mahia coming into the game on the backdrop of five wins on the trot in the league while AFC have won only two of their last five.
"In derbies it doesn't matter the position on the table or form. It is 90 minutes and we will fight on the field to win for our supporters," the defiant coach said.