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Ghana’s El Classico: Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko in title-defining clash on Sunday

Ghana Premier league title contenders, Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko, will be heading to Sunday’s epoch clash knowing too well that any slip-up could have serious ramifications on which direction the Premier League title swings to as the competition heads into the homestretch.

Any clash between the country’s traditional football powerhouses is fiercely contested, but Sunday’s match at the Accra Sports Stadium has assumed an even special attraction as a potential title decider with all its ramifications.

Since 37 years ago, at no other time has the result of this iconic clash carried so much weight as one that could settle the championship race, especially as both sides are tied neck-and-neck on 56 points and separated by just a superior goal difference.

Undoubtedly Ghana’s version of ‘El Clasico’, tomorrow’s clash is one fit for the gods and expectedly has virtually overshadowed all other activities this weekend, including the ongoing Euro 2020 Championships.

And with the government’s COVID-19 protocols limiting attendance to 25 per cent of the Accra Stadium capacity, expectation reached fever pitch on Friday morning as the limited tickets available (the Daily Graphic understands that less than 10,000 tickets were released) were sold out just hours after they were put on sale at designated outlets on Friday.

The significance of the clash is not lost on both teams who go into the game in top form, having won their last matches — Kotoko defeated Karela United 2-1 at Obuasi last Wednesday while Hearts beat Legon Cities by the same margin in Accra the following day.

Sunday’s fixture will be the 27th encounter between the two sides since 2006, with the Phobians boasting of 10 victories against seven win by the Porcupine warriors while nine have ended in draws, including their last clash in Accra last February.

Coach Samuel Boadu has been credited for Hearts’ current form as they have won eight of their last nine matches in the capital. Having come closest to ending their title drought, the Phobians will aim for a win tomorrow as a slip-up could cost them their first league win in over a decade.

But for Kotoko who traditionally perform well in Accra, they go into the match at full strength and highly motivated to scupper Heart’s title dreams, with Coach Mariano Barreto also aware that his time at the club could be defined by the outcome of the clash which could make or break their title ambitions, too.

Managers’ impact

Certainly, the rival coaches have made a huge impact on their sides despite joining mid-season; Kotoko’s Barreto succeeding Maxwell Konadu while Hearts’ Boadu replacing Serbian Kosta Papic.

Before his arrival, Kotoko averaged just a goal per game but the Portuguese’s attacking approach has seen them improve upon their scoring rate and leaking fewer goals — they have won six and drawn three of their last nine matches.

Key men for battle

Barreto will look to improved Brazilian star Fabio Gama for another influential performance as the midfielder has been a game-changer in Kotoko’s fine run either scoring or providing assists for others to score.

Other key performers Kotoko will count on are Skipper Emmanuel Gyamfi, Abdul Ganiyu, Razak Abalora, Emmanuel Sarkodie, Latif Anabila and Augustine Okrah to put their best feet forward tomorrow.

Similarly, Coach Boadu has transformed the Phobians from a mid-table side into potential champions on the back of inspiring performances by players such as Daniel Afriyie Barnieh, Benjamin Afutu, Salifu Ibrahim, Fatawu Mohammed, Isaac Mensah and Kojo Obeng Jnr, who are all motivated to win tomorrow and possibly march on to claim their first league title over a decade.

Other fixtures

Elsewhere, this weekend’s matches start with a clash this afternoon between Eleven Wonders and Berekum Chelsea at the Ohene Ameyaw Park, Techiman.

Tomorrow, Elmina Sharks will host fourth-placed Accra Great Olympics at the Dr Nduom Sports Complex, eighth-placed Aduana Stars will welcome third-placed Dreams FC to the Nana Agyemang Badu Park (Dormaa-Ahenkro), while Ashantigold welcome WAFA to the Len Clay Stadium (Obuasi).

At the Theatre of Dreams (Dawu), it will be a relegation dogfight between bottom club Inter Allies and 16th-placed Liberty Professionals, while 12-placed Bechem United clash with fifth-placed Medeama SC at the Nana Fosu Gyeabour Park.

On Monday, Legon Cities will be guests of King Faisal at the Ohene Ameyaw Park in Techiman, while Karela FC will slug it out with relegation bound King Faisal playing against Ebusua Dwarfs at Elmina.

Source: graphic.com.gh

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