Ghana FA Cup champions Asante Kotoko will resume their quest for African glory this weekend with quite a tricky tie against Kenyan side Kariobangi Sharks in the second leg of the Caf Confederation Cup at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi.Immediately the draw for the first round was made back in November after Kotoko were handed a walkover victory in the preliminary round, few could have envisaged the high optimism that Kotoko would bring into the resumption of continent’s premier club competition since they had been inactive since June. Meanwhile, a clash with Kotoko is hardly what Sharks would have also desired at such an early stage because of the Ghanaian side's rich history.
The first leg, however, didn't live up to the expectations as both teams somehow were cautious going forward. Sharks, in particular, had the opportunity to put Kotoko to the sword in Nairobi because of the visitors' lack of match fitness, but Patillah Omotto, Duke Abuya, and Harrison Mwendwa couldn't make the few chances they had count and may live to rue such missed opportunities.
In Kumasi, Sharks obviously will offer a stout defence marshalled by Geoffrey Shiveka; a physical challenge all over the pitch and a quick counterattacking football for a priceless away goal in a bid to cause another huge upset and even kill the zeal which the home fans would hope to spend the Christmas holidays with.
Our @CAF_Online CC prey @k_sharksfc has landed in Accra and will soon fly to Kumasi on Executive Chairman, Dr. Kwame Kyei's, Unity Airline. #AKSC #Kotoko4Africa #LetsFillBabaYara #AKKS pic.twitter.com/NjXXFZECuG— Asante Kotoko SC (@AsanteKotoko_SC) December 20, 2018
Meanwhile, Alhaji Karim Grunsah who is the chairman of Kotoko's city rivals King Faisal has advised the hosts not to underestimate Sharks to avoid a repeat of the heartbreaking experiences Barrack Young Controllers (Liberia), M.O Bejaia (Algeria) and CARA Brazzaville of Congo caused in the past.
“Kotoko is not guaranteed an automatic victory in the game on Saturday so they should prepare well and their supporters need to lower expectations,” he told Goal .
“Kariobangi Sharks may not be the biggest or strongest club from Kenya but they can cause a major upset if they are underestimated. Any goal from them in the second leg can bring pressure on Kotoko so they must be very careful not to concede at home.
“Even if they will concede a goal, I believe it should be a consolation since that can't affect their ambition of making it to the next round. Kotoko must make Ghana proud by trying their best to avoid a shock and make it to the group stage,” Grunsah added.
Kotoko, under young and ambitious coach C.K Akonnor, are quite a direct opposite to what they paraded in recent years although it is important to remember just how many chances they missed in last year's tie against CARA. The technical team has really worked on their charges and few changes are expected in their starting XI. With Songne Yacouba fully fit to start alongside either Obed Owusu, Frederick Boateng or Naby Keita, they would obviously not be as wasteful this time.
Akonnor was summoned to work his magic at Baba Yara Stadium after six coaches failed that pot and he needs to prove his mojo at the highest stage.