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Goal.com Kenya takes a look at five factors that could play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia contest

On Saturday afternoon, most traffic in Kenya's capital Nairobi is expected to lead towards the 60,000 sitter Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani (MISC) where the biggest match in Kenyan football history is expected to take place.
The duel, in which two of the biggest clubs in Kenyan football will lock horns in the battle for the 2012 Kenyan Premier League title, is no ordinary game and this will be no different.

The stakes are much higher in this winner takes it all contest. Goal.com Kenya takes a look at FIVE factors that could play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the contest.

5. Officiating

The most important parameter.

The last league match involving these teams was halted for almost half an hour due to crowd trouble. The incident was propelled by a send off to Victor Ali for an awkward lunge on Amon Muchiri midway through the first half.

Handling this match will be difficult for any official. Word trickling in from the administrators seems to suggest that future encounters could be handled by foreign referees.

Damaris Kimani, one of the most experienced and respected officials in the country, is expected to handle this duel.

She will be advised to have her grip on the proceedings, clamp down on unnecessary tackles and moves that could highlight tension, and as expected remain neutral.

4. The men in charge

Jan Koops and Zdravko Logarusic

The duo will be tasked with selecting the match day squads and controlling the proceedings from the technical bench for the 90 duration of the match.

Jan Koops has in the past few weeks been facing his most challenging moments since assuming the coaching role at the helm of AFC Leopards.

This has been due to the dismal performance and emergence of Gor Mahia, under Logarusic. Both managers are respected in most quarters for turning the fortunes of the two clubs since assuming the reins.
Logarusic holds the upper hand in a head to head contest, following the Top Eight title triumph earlier this season.

However, this match will be key. Both sets of fans can withstand, or drink away any defeat in the league, but not one suffered against the other. The only match played between these two sides with both coaches in charge ended in a stalemate.

3. The players to watch

The English say statistics never lie. Both teams have three players who have proven the catalyst in their respective campaigns.

AFC Leopards will need Patrick Matasi, Mike Baraza and Erick Masika fit and firing in all cylinders to stand a chance.

The trio have played influential roles for the side during this campaign, with Baraza's catching the eye of new Harambee Stars coach Henri Michel, while Masika's absence was genuinely felt during AFC Leopards last week's loss to Western Stima.

Gor Mahia on the other hand will be banking most of their hopes on Rama Salim, Ivan Anguyo and Dan Sserunkuma.

Midfielder Rama Salim acquired from Congo United during the start of the season, leads the goal scoring charts for his club with nine goals, while Sserunkuma and Anguyo have not only held their lines well, but chipped in with important strikes.

In particular, the partnership between Sserunkuma and Rama Salim will be very decisive.



2. The 12th man

Saturday's match will not only be contested on the pitch, but at the stands as well.

The stakes are high. Losing is not an option. AFC Leopards players and technical bench got a sneak preview of how wrong things could get, after the fans surrounded their bus following their recent defeat to Western Stima and threatened tom assault the players. For Gor Mahia, the consequences of losing might be worse.

In the meantime, both sets of teams are assured of 'full' moral support from the onset, with different versions of encouraging/mocking songs doing the rounds from the stands.

Both teams will be advised to take full advantage of the support, for as long as it lasts.


1. Tactics

The first goal (if any) will be crucial). If Kogalo score first, they have previously proven to protect such a crucial lead and could quite capitalize on the fragility in form and mentality of their opponents.

However, if AFC Leopards score first, the scenario could be real tricky. Gor will be forced to attack and this could play into the hands of AFC Leopards, managed by a Dutchman, who has set his team up for the counter attack.

Gor Mahia with an inferior points tally compared to their opponents, need the win more, and it would be crucial on how the approach this duel from the onset.

AFC Leopards are also in a catch 22 situation, having allowed defending league champions Tusker FC to claw back into the title race, and a draw or lose could be as dangerous to them as it will be to Gor Mahia.

Kenya football fans, do you agree with this writer on the five elements that will influence the match between AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia? Please drop your comments below.

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