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CECAFA: Kenya goes into action without Kelli !

Semifinalists Harambee Stars of Kenya will be playing their first ever game at Jomo Kenyatta stadium in Machakos this Tuesday afternoon against Kirimanjaro stars but without their lead striker Jacob Kelli.

Kelli who features for KCB Football Club in the Kenyan Premier League picked up an injury during their quarter final match against Rwanda in Mombasa Municipal stadium last Saturday. “No, I can’t play and I may be out of the game for some good weeks. But my team has all my prayers”, said a visibly concerned young player on Monday evening.

Kelli was caught up at Park Hill Hotel with the team doctor as the rest of the teammates had departed earlier in the day for Machakos where they spent the night. Midfielder Noah Wafula is also doubtful as he was reported to have malaria.

Tanzania looks more focused

Harambee Stars will have to be at their best to beat Kilimanjaro Stars who look more focused and prepared for this year’s championship. Kick off has been put at 1:00 pm.

Tanzania Mainland just have too much quality; and class leaders, too. No one is more battle hardened than the TP Mazembe striking pair of Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu.

They have been a mainstay in their Democratic Republic of Congo, Lubumbashi-based club, recent two-time Africa Champions League winners and perennial campaigners in Africa.

Kilimanjaro Stars did not have to call up these two but it just goes to show how serious Tanzania are to regain the Challenge Cup they last won at home in 2011. Another striker, the speedster Mrisho Ngassa, has also been at his best tormenting defence lines.

Then they have confidence of players such as their captain Kevin Yondani  marshalling the backs and masters in the middle of the park Athman “Chuji” Iddi, Salum “Sure Boy” Abubakar, Amri Kiemba and Ramadhan “Messi” Singano.

Indeed, Kim Poulsen brought the biggest possible guns from Tanzania football. It has been evident in all their matches and most during their quarter final tie in Mombasa where they eliminated defending champions Uganda.

Unlike in the past when Uganda, under Bobby Williamson, brought even their overseas players to contest and win the Challenge Cup, this time around the Cranes were out of depth, with their team comprising domestic league players eligible for the African Nations Championship [CHAN] next year.

Uganda would have been struggling even more had they not had two foreign-based players, striker Danny Sserunkuma of Kenyan club Gor Mahia and Khalid Aucho of Tusker.

Its long without meeting

Harambee Stars are at their possible strongest but they are clearly short on play-makers who can take the game by the scruff of its neck when the going gets tough.

Kenya can depend on old war horses at the back led by James Situma and Joackins Atudo to protect another veteran Duncan Ochieng’ in goal from the marauding Tanzania forwards. However, it is in the pursuit of goals that the Kenyans lack many choices.

Allan Wanga, therefore, the skipper and most experienced man in attack, must be more productive than he normally is when on duty for the national team especially when his usual partner Jacon Kelli is out of the game.

Because of a strange strike of the draw, Harambee Stars and Kilimanjaro Stars have rarely met in the Challenge Cup and their last memorable clash was in the Final of 2002 when a Kenya team of rookies upset the Tanzanian Stars on a 3-2 win in Mwanza.

In Mombasa, another thriller should entertain Coast fans when the quality Zambians, recent African champions, take on a classic Sudanese team that looks pretty good at 4:00pm.

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