Ulinzi Stars continental aspirations will be put to a severe test Friday evening when they confront Egyptian side Smouha in their Caf Confederation Cup first round, first leg match.
The clash will be held at the intimidating 86,000-capacity Borg el-Arab Stadium in Alexandria, from 7pm (Kenyan time).
The Kenya Defence Forces side touched down in Alexandria on Wednesday and trained at the Tolip Sports city grounds a day later.
Experienced Ulinzi coach Benjamin Nyangweso understands the enormity of tackling an opponent from Egypt.
He knows Kenyan clubs’ struggles on the continental against teams from this side of Africa.
In fact, the Kenya Defence Forces side, with Nyamweso as part of the technical bench, were thrashed 5-0 on aggregate by Egyptian giants Zamalek, the last time they turned up for a continental engagement six years ago.
Despite these discouraging statistic, Nyangweso, speaking after watching his side settle for a barren draw with AFC Leopards in a build-up game last weekend, was optimistic of his side’s chances against Smouha.
Nyangweso called on his players to play without fear.
“We still have some bit to do in the finishing department but overall, I am pleased with the condition of the team after two weeks of preparations. I am optimistic we can hold them to a draw away,” said Nyangweso.
Nyangweso will bank on on loan Gor Mahia forward Baron Oketch, alongside Oscar Wamalwa and Enosh Ochieng to lead the attack, especially in the absence of lead striker John Makwatta who is leaving the military side for paid ranks in Europe.
Skipper James Saruni is the likely candidate in goal, and will be relied on to stop anticipated continuous assaults from Smouha forwards Ahmed Hassan Mekky and Hassan Al Ghazy.
Experienced duo Stephen Ocholla and Geoffrey Kokoyo will have the responsibility of marshalling the midfield and defence respectively.
Smouha, currently under the tutelage of former Egyptian international Moamen Soliman, earned the right to compete in this competition after finishing third in their premier league last season, behind bigwigs Al Ahly and Zamalek respectively.
Smouha are still eyeing their first league and domestic cup titles in Egypt.
Ulinzi meanwhile, secured passage to this stage of the competition after defeating Libyan side Benghazi 5-4 on post match penalties in the preliminaries last month, following a one all aggregate stalemate.