With Ghana Premier League week 20 fixtures taking place this weekend 4th-5th March, Ghana football fans will be handed the biggest game on the football calendar when Hearts of Oak welcome Asante Kotoko to the Accra Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Although the quality of this clash has degraded over the years undoubtedly impacting attention and mileage in Ghana and beyond its borders, Sunday’s clash will be special and expected to draw in high level of international recognition.
It’s the final of the 2023 Presidential Cup, a Ghana Premier League top 4 decider and game coming just a day to Ghana’s historic day- the Independence Day as the country turns 66 after collecting freedom from colonial masters.
Many of the game’s followers will be blindfolded of these sides of the game which may lead to somehow an average stadium attendance but organizers and officials will have much say on the enthusiasm level of the players when they create a morale boosting atmosphere through decorating the stadium, placing the national brass band at work and ensuring good officiating.
At least, these practices can draw those who may be at home behind the television set and partly bring back the love for the Ghana Premier League and Ghana football.
One key area of this mouthwatering fixture will be the bragging rights- mainly achieved by winning the game though some areas like late equalizer, a red card or penalty miss can sometimes give a team the bragging rights. Looking at what current modalities stand, Hearts of Oak are favourites for this tie. First, under their Serbian coach Slavko Matic the Rainbow club have been playing so well- a determining factor of victor of Kotoko-Hearts games- despite the results not much on their side.
Second, Hearts of Oak have been the better side in matches involving the two in Accra in the last two years, and with Sunday’s game taking place in the capital that is one of the justifiable points Hearts are likely to claim the bragging rights. Hearts have won two of all three meetings at the Accra Sports Stadium in the last two years including last season Presidential Cup tagged “Sulley Muntari Game”.
Third, Hearts of Oak have been superior over Kotoko when it comes to cup final games. This trend has remained through history though the Reds have had lifted a couple of titles from the Phobians including 2017 FA Cup but it’s still not enough to change what the history says.
Many Hearts of Oak fans are hoping history repeats itself today, and it is a likelier outcome of the game after appearing unbeaten in the last three consecutive cup finals defeating Ash Gold in last two seasons’ FA Cup final, Bechem United in last term’s FA Cup final and Asante Kotoko in last season’s Presidential Cup.
Hearts’ three positive sides do not completely rule out Asante Kotoko’s chances. The Porcupine Warriors have what back them ahead of the biggest game. The game in Accra is a Kotoko strength despite Hearts improving against Kotoko in matches in Accra in the last two seasons. And even if that the case, Kotoko fans are confident the restoration of their naturally fine run of results in Accra begins today 5th March, 2023.
Another key aspect of the game has been talking points of the coaches for both clubs whom their futures aren’t certain. Hearts of Oak head coach Slavko Matic has been under intense pressure from club’s supporters following his poor results with their latest loss to city rivals Great Olympics increasing the opinion that ‘Matic must leave Hearts of Oak’.
Asante Kotoko beat Bechem United in midweek to get their Ghana Premier League title defense back on track, jumping to second position on the log 5 points below leaders Aduana Stars. Hearts of Oak meanwhile with their loss to Great Olympics dropped down to 6th place but only 3 points adrift Asante Kotoko and 8 below Aduana Stars.
Both teams enter into the game with a display of rich midfield, and while Asante will have the likes of Linda Mtange, Gladson Awako and Salifu Ibrahim to contain in midfield transitions, Hearts must be aware to deal with Mohammed Sherif, Richmond Lamptey and Richard Boadu.
At Forward, Asante Kotoko have a bit of advantage given Steven Mukwala who has improved both on work rate and goal scoring. the Ugandan International has found back of the net 8 times this season.
According to reports, Hearts fans had prevented the Serbian from leading the team in training sessions for clash with the Reds.
For Seydou Zerbo, he has also received unpleasant criticisms from Kotoko fans due to poor results increasing speculations that the Burkina Faso International could be fired before the season ends. But a Kotoko official has come out to defend Zerbo with the offical stating unfair officiating behind the Burkina’s poor form at the club.
Hearts of Oak have no injury worries with their danger men Linda Mtange, Gladson Awako, Denis Nkrumah Korsah, former Black Stars midfielder Samuel Inkoom and Salifu Ibrahim expected to be available for selection.
Unlike Hearts, Asante Kotoko will have Issaac Oppong, Justice Blay, Rashid Nortey and Dickson Afoakwa missing due to injuries.
Asante Kotoko paid a visit to the One Week celebration of former Black Stars winger Christian Atsu at Adjiringanor Astro Turf, who dead in the Turkey earthquake last month.
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Hearts Oak Probable XI: Richmond Ayi, Amankwah Baafi, Samuel Inkoom, Glid Otanga, Konadu Yiadom, Denis Korsah, Eric Esso, Gladson Awako, Linda Mtange, Salifu Ibrahim, Suraj Seidu
Asante Kotoko Probable XI: Danlad Ibrahim, Augustine Agyapong, Mohammed Alhassan, Sherif Mohammed, Mohammed Sherif, Richard Boadu, Richmond Lamptey, Enoch Morrison, Steven Mukwala, George Mfegue
The game will be live on TV in Ghana and across some other Africa countries primarily where StarTimes operate. People of Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Kenya can watch the game on StarTimes.
Ghanaian based Max TV will also show the game live for Ghanaians to watch.
- Max TV