Harambee Stars Vs Lesotho, Sunday 4pm
My prediction: Kenya...2 Lesotho.... 0
This is the match of the weekend because it will determine whether Kenya will have hopes of playing in next year’s AFCON or not. It’s such a crucial game and foreign-based players Paul Were, Anthony Akumu and Allan Wanga have all been training with the team all week. Also in town are Mcdonald Mariga and brother Victor Wanyama. Once again Arnold Origi and Dennis Oliech have been denied permission to come for the game by their respective clubs. Unfortunately in Oliech’s case, his club Aj Ajjacio said they will never release him on a non-FIFA week because he always reports back to his club late. Sad really. We still have a strong side and I am still baffled as to how Lesotho beat us away, but we need to be on our toes this time. No blunders allowed. The Southern Africans will come with the intention of getting that crucial away goal and we can’t allow it. I have confidence in Bandari shot stopper Wilson Oburu who will be between the sticks, but the defenders must be tight. I hope the players have put all the Adel Amrouche drama to one side and are now focusing on the game. Wanga has been scoring freely for his Sudanese club side and I know he is desperate to play at a higher level in the African Cup of Nations.
Team selection will be crucial for assistant coach James Nandwa. But the key thing will be how we, the fans, support the Stars with our presence at the game to give them that all important home advantage. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at Nyayo and City Stadiums and at Kenya Cinema. Please buy one and let’s meet at the Nyayo National Stadium. Come early as security will be tight!
Valencia Vs AS Monaco, Today 3:55pm
My prediction: Valencia...1 Monaco ....2
The Emirates Cup kicks off with this game today and despite us being bang in the middle of transfer season, I believe most European teams have at least 90% of their squads intact. Whether they have gelled or not is the question. Valencia have been going through financial problems and managerial changes and for the sake of Arsenal winning this tournament, I hope they are yet to settled down. They did not have a brilliant season last term, finishing a very poor 8th in La Liga, which is why they sacked manager Juan Antonio Pizzi and hired Nuno Espirito Santo as his replacement. There have been a few player transfers as well and because it was a World Cup year, many clubs haven’t had the chance to gel ahead of their season. But that is something that will affect all clubs.
AS Monaco has lost their star player and the star of the 2014 World Cup James Rodriguez to Real Madrid. This was a huge blow to the playing unit although I doubt whether their bank manager is complaining. This week Monaco lost out on signing Romelu Lukaku so they are still in search of that danger man up front; although they do have the aging Dimitar Berbatov. I say that tongue in cheek because I have seen Berbatov score some amazing goals in his career.
Monaco finished second in Ligue 1 last season so we can say they are a Champions League side and will be good competition in this tournament. I worry about Monaco without Rodriguez but I think the changes and confusion at Valencia will see the French club victorious in this one.
Arsenal Vs Benfica, Today 6:15pm
My Prediction: Gunners ....3 Benfica...1
I’ll only predict two matches in the Emirates Cup because I will have featured all four teams. Arsenal is winning the tournament without a doubt because of the impressive line-up that manager Arsene Wenger has assembled this time around. We lost to New York Red Bulls in New York last weekend but we played a “trial and error” side. This will be the first real test of what is to come in the 2014/15 season so I don’t believe Wenger will be taking chances. This will be a chance to see our new boys Alexis Sanches, Mathieu Debuchy and Culum Chambers in action, and with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs. Laurent Koscienly and so on in the side, we are looking good.
Apart from Chambers, who just joined this week and who I imagine will start on the bench, the rest of the squad has had time to get to know each other. The Germans won’t be back until after the Charity Cup but I’m sure we’ll do fine without them. I am confident of Arsenal going into this term. Benfica won the Portuguese Premeira Liga last season and are a good side. I don’t know many of their players properly but they did make one major blunder last week; they signed Bebe from Manchester United. Yes Bebe. He who United felt was such an under performer that he spent his entire United career out on loan. Manager Jorge Jesus must have lost his mind but that suits me fine. It just means that the Emirates Cup once again is ours to lose.