Kenya/Djibouti: Matano Wary of Arta Solar As Tusker Eye Champions League First Round

17 September 2021

Kenyan champions Tusker will know their fate in the Caf Champions League when they host Arta Solar 7 of Djibouti in the preliminary round second leg match at Nyayo National Stadium on Saturday.

The match kicks off at 4pm behind closed doors due to strict measures put in place to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. The aggregate winner between these two sides will face Egyptian giants Zamalek in the first round which will be played over two legs next month.

The first leg of the first round of Caf Champions League is set for October 15-17 and the second leg on October 22-24.

The brewers head to the return leg with a slight advantage of an away goal following the 1-1 draw last weekend at Hassan Gouled Stadium in Djibouti City.

On Friday, both teams held their last training sessions at the match venue with both tacticians Robert Matano of Tusker and Cameroonian coach Libiih Thomas expecting a positive result.

Matano revealed that he was still sweating over the fitness of recently acquired Tanzanian import Joshua Ibrahim who scored their lone goal in Djibouti.

"I can't underrate them because it is a team with experienced players who have played in the World Cup and African Cup of Nations. They are a team with a combination of experience and skills but since we are at home our focus is on winning the game and qualifying for the next round," said Matano who hinted that he will stick with the team that started in Djibouti.

"Ibrahim had a slight injury but he is trying to be fit and if all goes well, he can start for us on Saturday," he added.

The 59-year-old Matano asserted that he has many options to chose from compared to the first leg where he had only 19 players at his disposal.

Tusker recently acquired 12 new players in the ongoing transfer window, the latest being teenager Rodgers Ouma from relegated Western Stima. Matano said his team has started to gel after training together for some time.

Thomas, who featured for the Indomitable Lions in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, is also optimistic of a win saying his team has prepared well for the game.

"We are ready and l'm optimistic we shall go through. We just need to focus and build on the performance we showcased in the first leg where we were the better side and missed many scoring opportunities," said the 53-year-old coach.

Among the experienced players at his disposal are former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Alex Song, former West Ham duo of Diafro Sakho and veteran custodian Carlos Kameni.

Former Cameroon international Danny Nounkeu and Burkinabe striker Alain Traore who scored in the first leg are expected to start for Arta Solar.

Tusker are looking to make it to the first round after exiting the competition in the preliminary round in 2017 following a 3-2 aggregate loss to Port-Louis of Mauritius.

Arta Solar 7 are in their maiden season in the Caf Champions League.

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