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Coach Juel Ah-Kong is worried that the absence of Hassan Ali, who has since decamped to join rivals and Barclays Division One champions St. Michel, will be felt

Gor Mahia opponents in Confederation Cup Anse Reunion from Seychelles are ruing the absence of key midfielder Hassan Ali ahead of the first leg contest at Nyayo Stadium on Saturday.

Anse Reunion coach Juel Ah-Kong is worried that the absence of Hassan Ali, who has since decamped to join rivals and Barclays Division One champions St. Michel, will be felt in the midfield. Ali had joined Anse Reunion from La Digue’s top flight side La Passe last year.

“He is a good player and his absence will be felt in midfield. I, personally, don’t like the way he left the team and how the transfer procedures went about,” coach Kong told Seychelles local daily Sports Nation.

“Now St Michel are a more complete team than us and it’s a shame that they (St Michel) just keep poaching our players,” he added. Ironically, St. Michel are Kenya Premier League (KPL) champions Tusker's opponents in the lucrative Africa Champions League. The two sides clash in Seychelles in the first leg tie on Saturday.

The coach admitted that although his players’ fitness is sub-standard, going into the battle against Gor Mahia, they have the necessary drive to see them through competitive matches.

“It’s always difficult to go right into a competition of this calibre after quite a long lay-off. “Saturday’s game against Gor Mahia will be our first official match of the year and it will be a difficult task, especially as we are playing away,” said coach Ah-kong whose team earned their ticket for the Caf Confederation Cup with a 3-2 win over Côte d’Or in last year’s Land Marine Cup final.

He noted that despite all the odds that are against them, they are determined to get a positive result from the away match. “It is important that my players stay focused for the whole 90 minutes and even more depending on the injury time to be played if there is any.”

“Therefore, we will not take an all-out attack approach. We will instead, rely on counter-attacks as we do not know much about Gor Mahia. It will be important for us to get an away goal.”

The return leg between the two sides will be played in Seychelles a fortnight later (Saturday March 2), with the winners progressing to the first round where they will meet Egyptian side ENPPI, who have been given a bye.

This will be the fourth appearance in an African club competition for Anse Reunion whose last outing dates back to 2008 and in the same African Confederations Cup.

They beat Petite Rivière Noire FC of Mauritius 2-1 on aggregate score (2-1 home win and 0-0 away draw) in the preliminary round before bowing out against South African outfit Ajax Cape Town 1-5 on aggregate score (0-1 away defeat and 1-4 home defeat) in the first round.

Anse Reunion are not new to Kenyan football as they played the defunct Kenya Pipeline in 2003 losing the first round Africa Cup Winners Cup fixture 9-8 on post-match penalties.

Pipeline won the first leg 2-1 in Nairobi with Reunion winning by a similar margin in the return leg played at Stad Linite for a 3-3 aggregate score.

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