Accra Hearts of Oak will hope to seize an early opportunity to topple arch-rivals Asante Kotoko for the first time this season when they contend Eleven Wonders today at the Ohene Ameyaw Park at Techiman in a week 26 Ghana Premier league fixture.
The ‘Phobians’ who are on a steady rise moved to second-place last week on 43 points , two points inferior to Kotoko who lead with 45 points. This means that a win for Samuel Boadu’s side will launch them to the summit, one point above their main rivals.
Broadly,a win will be a major boost to the title ambitions of the Phobians who are gunning for their first league trophy after 12 years and must navigate through a competitive title hungry field comprising Kotoko, Medeama, Karela United, Olympics, Aduana Stars, Dreams FC and WAFA – first to seventh placed teams separated by seven points with eight games remaining.
A good omenfor coach Boadu is that his team’s earlier visit to the Ohene Ameyaw Park this campaign ended in a 2-1 defeat of King Faisal and he would be eyeing a similar dosage against the ‘Sure Wonders’ side.
This, however, is not an easy one for Hearts, as Wonders are warped in relegation troubles and would be aiming to shed some of the burden with a win to ease their plight.
A bright start to the season capitulated into a relegation nightmare as Ignatius Ofosu’s side lie on the edge of the dropzone at 15th on 27 points, one adrift of 16th placed King Faisal.
More damning for the home side will be how to contain their former whizkid Salifu Ibrahim who was sold to the visitors during the second transfer window and has been explosive in the rainbow colours of Hearts, gaining an immediate affection among Hearts fans.
He would not be the only threat that Wonders centre-back Rashid Mohammed will have to deal with. Kojo Obeng Jnr, Victor Aidoo, and Isaac Mensah all potent marksmen capable of wrecking havoc to any defense.
Boadu will miss the services of Patrick Razak through injury but in Daniel Afriyie , the Hearts gaffer has an equal replacement.
Wonders coach Ignatius Osei has in Samuel Boakye a striker that has the right temperament to square up against Mohammed Alhassan and Robert Addo with former Hearts players, Ashitey Ollenu and Tetteh Nortey also integral to Osei’s trusted ammunition.
Tomorrow, Asante Kotoko will clash with WAFA at the Obuasi Len Clay aiming to maintain their spot as league leaders. A draw against Liberty at Sogakope reduced their lead to just two points and the Porcupines will be eager to tighten their grip with a win as any slip may spell doom for their title ambitions.
Against a resurgent WAFA side who are riding on back-to-back victories including a 1-0 defeat of Medeama at Tarkwa, the ‘Kum Apem’ boys must discover their scoring form which was abysmal against Liberty.
Fortunately forwards, Osman Ibrahim and Solomon Sarfo Taylor returned from long layoffs against Liberty and will offer Kotoko’s Portuguese trainer Mariano Barreto other striking options to Andy Kumi and Vinicius Jnr.
The passing vision of Kotoko’s Brazilian midfielder Fabio Gama and the runs of inform captain Emmanuel Gyamfi and Augustine Okrah will be critical to halt any surprise package from the ‘Academy boys’.
Admired for their slippery, talented, highly skilled and energetic nature, WAFA will be counting on their young forces led by Konadu Yiadom , Enock Asubonteng, Ibrahim Abubakar and Lawrence Agyekum to give the home side a tough deal as was the case in their earlier pulsating 1-1 fixture at Sogakope.
In the late kick-off game tomorrow at the Accra Stadium , Great Olympics will hope to put their disappointing 3-2 home loss against Aduana Stars behind them to pursue their title chase when they host bottom – club Inter Allies at the same venue with the visitors bolstered by their 5-0 defeat of Berekum Chelsea and a fighting instinct to climb up from bottom place.
Olympics gaffer Annor Walker is wary of the fact that the ‘Wonder Club’ cannot afford further slip-ups with the title race tightening as the league beckons to its climax.
In other games, third-placed Karela United will play as guests of Berekum Chelsea at the Golden City Park in an exciting encounter. Fourth-placed Medeama’s quest to bounce back from a recent spate of poor showing that is deriding their title chances will be tested by Ashantigold at the Akoon Park at Tarkwa.
At the Theatre of Dreams at Dawu, Dreams will continue their push for a top four finish against embattled Bechem United whilst Legon Cities continue their relegation push-back against a revived Aduana Stars at the Accra Stadium with the ‘Ogya boys’ basking in the of glory of earning two important wins at the venue against Kotoko and Olympics.
King Faisal will carry their fight against the dropzone to the Nduom Sports Stadium at Elmina where they will face Elmina Sharks.
Stuck in a similar fate as Faisal, Liberty Professionals must be more clinical against Ebusua Dwarfs away in Cape Coast than their erratic display against Kotoko if they are to emerge unscathed.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO