The 2018/2019 Kenya Premier League begins on 8th December, barely two months after the end of the 2017-2018 season. This is because of the push to align Kenya’s domestic season to the European one. This has no doubt caused many clubs to have a very shortened preseason, indeed, many clubs are preferring to play their pre-season friendlies at their home grounds.
This is how I predict the 2018 season will go, looking at the title favourites, top four candidates, relegation candidates as well as potential players of the season:
When it comes to the candidates for the title, it is very difficult to look past Gor Mahia. Title winners five times in the last six years, it is only Tusker that has stopped them from winning all six titles since 2013. Gor Mahia has a very stable defence, and despite losing stalwarts Nzigimana, Meddie Kagere and head coach Dylan Kerr during the offseason, it is very difficult to see anyone stopping them, bearing in mind they won the title with an impressive 13 point difference to the second placed team last season (75 points to 62 over Bandari).
My conversations on Twitter with KPL fan @georgeomomanyi enlightened me on the solid preparations that Bandari FC have made for this season. Surprising second place finishers last season, Bandari can rely on solid sponsorship from Kenya Ports Authority and have prepared well for the upcoming season, even travelling to Tanzania to play friendlies.
Other “usual suspect” challengers for the title include Tusker FC, Ulinzi Stars and AFC Leopards, but it is very hard to see anyone stopping K’Ogalo.
Verdict: Gor Mahia
Top four finishers
The KPL is very competitive, indeed, last season, only 11 points separated the second best team with the seventh on the log. However, there are some established teams in the division, that have always done well. My top four candidates would be as follows:
- Gor Mahia
- AFC Leopards
In the 18 team division, two teams have to finish last. Last season, Wazito FC and Thika United were the unfortunate ones, and this season, it is difficult to look past the two teams that have been promoted from the National Super League, KCB and Western Stima, both teams have been part of the Kenya Premier League in years past, but both will find the step up challenging. Former Nakumatt FC, now Mount Kenya United, finished 16th last season and it will be interesting how the team adapts to a new fanbase, sponsorship and identity. Other teams that might struggle include Zoo FC, which doesn’t have solid sponsorship backing, Vihiga United who start their season without a coach.
Relegation candidates: KCB, Western Stima, Mount Kenya United, Zoo FC
Player of the season
Last season’s player of the year trophy went to Eric Kapaito. The Kariobangi Sharks forward won the title for finishing top in goals, and should he maintain that form this season, he will be in the running. Other contenders include Gor Mahia’s Harun Shakava, who is even more key to the club with the transfer of Nzigimana, Bandari’s defender Felly Mulumba and 2018 young player of the year Cliff Nyakeya of Mathare United.
In a nutshell, the 2018-2019 season will be a very interesting one. With Gor Mahia and Kariobangi Sharks involved in continental competitions, it will be interesting to see how they handle this. In addition, the likes of Bandari, Tusker and Ulinzi will try to gun for the title, and AFC Leopards will also back themselves to go for the title. It promises to be an intriguing season.
*special thanks to George Momanyi (@georgeomomanyi) for helping me write this article. Follow him on Twitter for regular Kenyan Premier League news and updates*