Asante Kotoko are going into the game with the odds strongly against them as they are riding on the back of no wins in their last three games.
The Porcupines twice fluffed the chance to jump to the summit of the table by sharing the spoils with Inter Allies and Bechem united.
Before surging Ebusua Dwarfs pummeled them 4-1 at the Robert Mensah stadium in midweek.
The last three results has seen the Porcupines drop from the second position to the fourth position, five points adrift off the top spot and would drop further down if Hearts beat them in Kumasi.
Hearts of Oak come into the game on the back of good form. Three games, two wins, two goals scored, none conceded. All this come at a time where the Phobians still seem to be in transition following the departure of Kenichi Yatsuhashi and the arrival of Sergio Tranguil.The Phobians were held goalless by Aduana in Accra before earning a hard fought victory over Hasaacas in Takoradi. The win sent Hearts to the summit of the table before consolidating their lead at the top with a late win over Berekum Chelsea. 7 out of 9 points for Hearts who seem to be brimming with confidence.
I dare write Michael Osei has his job on the line going into this clash. Osei is under pressure to win.
Obviously he’s made progress with the team as interim manager, picking Kotoko from an embarrassing last position to making them title contenders. But the last three results, including the mauling at Dwarfs, has left many doubting his credentials.
However, Sunday offers him yet another opportunity to go out there and prove to Kotoko fans that he is one of the best options available for the job by setting up a plan that can make nonsense of Sergio Traguil’s methods which has worked to perfection in the last two games.
Osei’s record against Hearts is impressive, two wins out of two and he will relish another victory over the Phobians.
Sergio Traguil has gradually won the hearts of many Phobians. A fortnight ago, he was largely chastised for the Phobians ineffectiveness in front of goal but after two straight wins, it is Keni who?
The Portuguese has brought calm around the Phobian team with the 2000 CAF Champions League winners playing an attractive brand of football only rivalled by WAFA. Short passing, build-ups from defence, inter positional play and most importantly, runs off the ball have been the hallmark of Tranguil who has stamped his mark on the club in less than a month in charge. In his brother and scout, they have knowledge about all teams and how to clearly attack every game. A modern breed of manager who could be the catalyst for Hearts success.
Following the capitulation in Cape Coast, manager Michael Osei has been mum, leaving assistant Godwin Ablordey to do all the talking.
Ablordey is confident the team will bounce back to claim full spoils against Hearts to revive their dwindling fortunes and get season back on the right track.
“It happens in football, sometimes you don’t get your day. Things don’t go well for you sometimes,” he told the media.
“But we will bounce back strongly. We will overcome this defeat. We will psyche ourselves up ahead of our next game[against Hearts of Oak]
“We still have 10 matches to go and so all hope is not lost as I said you sometimes don’t get your day and that is football.”
Sergio Traguil has had fair knowledge of Kotoko in the Presidents Cup meeting three weeks ago but he is adamant he knew the team before taking over the Hearts coaching job.
“I knew of Kotoko before I came to this country, of course, news of their defeat brings me joy as they are contending for the title, and come Sunday I am going into the game to take all three points”
“I heard that the clash between Hearts and Kotoko is Ghana’s version of El Classico,”
The reds latest slump could continue this weekend. At the moment the team look more like finishing outside the top four than winning the league title.After defeat to Ebusua Dwarfs the pressure on Kotoko is reaching a crescendo. Hearts fans might be smiling but Kotoko have definitely descended.And It’s going to take something very special for the team to defeat Hearts but a draw is what fans should expect and be hopeful of a win.Kotoko play better away from home. At home the play is often uninspiring. The players complain that the pressure from fans at home is enormous that they fluff their lines.
The Phobians expect nothing but a win. Their recent form coupled with their unbeaten away stats and their recent good form in Kumasi has made the fans expectant. They need nothing but victory to extend their lead over their bitterest rivals.
Eric Donkor, who was one of the best performers in the first instalment of the super clash, is suspended after he received a red card in kotoko’s last fixture against Dwarfs.Edwin Tuffour Frimpong who has solidify the left back position is racing for fitness whilst center back Ahmed Adams is suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards.Frank Sarfo Gyamfi is also doubtful after he limped out of the Dwarfs game.
GOALKEEPER – Veteran goalkeeper Ernest Sowah is expected to start in goal despite conceding four at Cape Coast.
FOUR DEFENDERS – If Tuffour Frimpong is unable to start, captain Amos Frimpong will shift to the left back position and Samuel Kyere will play at right back. Richard Osei Agyemang will replace the suspended Ahmed Adams and partner Evans Quao in central defence.
FOUR MIDFIELDERS – Theophilus Nyame and Stephen Nyarko will start in central midfield with either Michael Appiah or youngster Akwasi Nti taking the right place of Frank Gyamfi Sarfo. The left side of midfield in the absence of Eric Donkor is likely to go to Bennett Ofori who has been deployed as a striker a couple of times this season.
With Dauda Mohammed returning in time from camp of Black Satellites he’s expected to lead the line alongside Emmanuel Osei Carlos or out of favour Obed Owusu.
HEARTS OF OAK
Thomas Abbey, Leonard Tawiah, Sarbah Laryea and Cosmos Dauda remain doubts for the game. However no one can be ruled out and all things being equal, Traguil will parade his best XI in a 4-2-3-1 shape.No place for midweek hero Kwame Kizito who is likely to start from the bench.
GOALKEEPER: Soulama Abdoulaye
DEFENDERS: Richard Akrofi (RB) Ghandi Kassenu (LB) Musah Inusah (CB) Robin Gnagne (CB)
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Mustapha Essuman, Emmanuel Sarbah Laryea
ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Isaac Mensah, Patrick Razak, Samudeen Ibrahim
STRIKER: Cosmos Dauda