Kariobangi Sharks, winners of the 2018 Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Cup will make their continental football debut on Tuesday evening at the Kasarani Stadium when they take on Djibouti's Arta Solar in the preliminary round first leg tie.
Sharks who have only played two seasons in Kenyan top flight say they are confident of starting up their campaign on a high and have vowed to make the best of their home advantage.
Coach William Muluya says the players are motivated and has expressed the team's desire to go all the way to the group stages and emulate the run league champions Gor Mahia enjoyed last season.
We are happy to be making our debut because this has always been the vision of the team, to play in continental football. The atmosphere in training has been very good and the behavioral actions from the players is encouraging. They are willing to get into action and expecting a good outing on Tuesday, Muluya said as he looked forward to the clash.
The tactician says he does not know much about the Djibouti opponents but says they will not underrate them as they prepare for the clash.
I don't know so much about them but at least, we have prepared well as a team and that's the most important thing. We have worked to perfect on the weak areas we had last season and I believe we are ready, the tactician stated.
His sentiments were echoed by skipper Patillah Omotto, the most experienced player in the youthful squad. Omotto who has played for AFC Leopards and Bandari in the Kenyan top tier said they were ready to make their mark in African football.
As a team this is what we have been targeting to achieve and we are glad the hard work has paid off. The time has come and we want to start well. We don't know much about them, but that will not deter the fact that we want to start on a winning note and finish the job at home, the midfielder stated.
Meanwhile, Sharks will miss the services of three key players for the tie. Central defender Geoffrey Shiveka and right back Eric Juma have been ruled out with injury while striker Eric Kapaito, voted Kenya's best player last season misses out after picking a knock in training.
This comes even as two other dependable players in left back Bolton Omwenga and central defender Pascal Ogweno left the club for newly promoted KCB and Gor Mahia respectively. This means the coach will field a new backline on Tuesday when they play Solar.
But despite the absence of the key experienced players, Muluya is confident his team has what it takes to succeed.
I would look at it as an opportunity for the other players to step up. I will not look at it as a problem but more for the opportunities it will present. The departure especially of Bolton was untimely, but it is time we think of life without him. We have signed players who I know are up to the task, Muluya said.
Midfielder Sven Yidah and goalkeeper John Oyemba have both returned to training after a long spell recovering from injury, but the tactician says they will not be ready for the game Tuesday.
New signings Tom Teka brought in from Nzoia Sugar and left back Nickson Omondi signed from second tier side Kenya Police are expected to slot straight into the starting team.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football