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CAF Champions League

Caf Champions League: Masterminding a Gor Mahia victory vs USM Alger

20:49 SAST 2019/09/12
NICHOLAS KIPKURUI of Gor Mahia v Tusker.
North Africa has been a tough hunting ground for K'Ogalo in Caf Competitions, but how can the jinx be broken this weekend?

It is exactly one year and a month since Gor Mahia suffered a 2-1 defeat against USM Alger in Algeria in the Caf Confederation Cup.

The Kenyan champions under coach Dylan Kerr were targeting a point from their hosts to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition from Group D. However, goals from Congolese import Prince Ibara and Amir Sayoud killed the hopes of the visitors, who scored their consolation courtesy of Jacques Tuyisenge.

The North African side went on to advance to the last eight as group winners alongside Rwanda's Rayon Sports.

This Sunday, the two giants are set to play each other again, but in the final preliminary round of the Caf Champions League.

USM advanced from the initial hurdle after overcoming AS Sonidep of Nigeria with a 5-2 aggregate score, while K'Ogalo eliminated Aigle Noir of Burundi in a 5-1 aggregate win to make it to the final round.

Playing the first leg away is already an advantage for the Steve Polack-led charges, but what do they have to do to make sure they knock out the Algerian side?

USM have a strong Champions League record at home, having won six of their last 10 games, drawing three and losing one game. An interesting fact is they have kept seven clean sheets in the process and scored an eye-catching 18 goals, conceding just four.

It will be an uphill task for Gor Mahia to get a positive result away against USM, considering the fact they have lost eight out of their last 10 away games. K'Ogalo have conceded at most one goal in seven of those matches, meaning that if they tighten their defence against the Algerian side, they can stop their hosts from scoring.

Half of the goals scored by USM have come in the first half, and when they concede first, the players usually become frustrated as seen, infamously, in 2015 when they fell to Tout Puissant Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gor Mahia can capitalize on this by hitting the back of the net first. Players like Nicholas Kipkirui, Kenneth Muguna, Lawrence Juma, and Boniface Omondi can break the hearts of the home team. Coupled with a determined defensive contribution of Tobias Otieno, K'Ogalo might break their North African jinx.

The Kenyan Premier League champions have scored 12 goals in the four matches they have played this season in all competitions.

This comes despite the departure of attacking players like Tuyisenge, who joined Angolan side Petro Atletico, George Odhiambo, who signed for Tusker, and Francis Mustafa, who went back to his native Uganda.

The 10 goals have come from across the team, making it harder for USM to predict who will score for K'Ogalo. It also gives the East African side the edge over their opponents; Gor must stick to their style of play and the goals will come.

Avoiding unnecessary mistakes at the back will increase Gor's chances of getting a win, but again, they have to be cautious with USM, who on most occasions rely on the wings for the delivery of crosses to the frontmen.

Possessing the ball and shutting down opponents quickly when they lose it will frustrate their hosts and deny them space to exploit the defenders. It promises to be a tight encounter which will only be won through hard work and tactical discipline.