APR, Rayon square off in critical derby for top spot

APR head coach Mohamed Adil Erradi (L) and his Rayon Sports counterpart, Martinez Espinosa. The two are facing each other in the league for the first time. Courtesy.

Saturday

APR                  Vs      Rayon         15:00

 

Marines        Vs      Musanze   15:00

 

Mukura        Vs      Kiyovu        15:00

 

Muhanga   Vs      Sunrise       15:00

There will be a lot at stake – including the top spot – when local giants APR and Rayon Sports face off in their first league derby this season at Amahoro Stadium on Saturday.

Kick-off 3pm.

Ahead of the highly anticipated clash, the Rwanda Premier League’s top two sides are separated by just three points, with APR at the summit with 34 points.

The rivalry between APR and Rayon produces one of the biggest matches in the region – and arguably the biggest in domestic football, and winning it has always been beyond the three points.

Bragging rights matter too, and at times matter more.

“This is a very big and important match for Rayon Sports and our fans,” said Martinez Espinosa, the Mexican head coach who is facing APR in the league for the first time since joining the Blues in September.

“For us to remain relevant in the title race, it is very crucial that we don’t lose on Saturday. We have prepared well, and the atmosphere in the camp is excellent. The players are up for the task.”

Victory – of more than one goal margin – for second-placed Rayon will move them to the top with a superior goal difference. Before the match, APR have 19 goals of difference, one better than Martinez’s side who humiliated Mukura 5-1 last weekend.

On the other hand, a win for APR would not only keep them at the top through the festive break with a six-point lead, but it will also set them as favourite to take the title.

Like Martinez, his Rayon Sports counterpart, APR tactician Mohamed Adil Erradi will also be taking charge of the derby for the first time, and he is eager to impress.

“It is a derby, and it is always special for the fans. But, for me all I am looking for is the three points. We want to stay top and to extend the lead, so we must win,” said Erradi.

The Morocco-born trainer also urged his players to exhibit the best of team spirit as they face their bitter rivals without some key players through injuries, including skipper Thierry Manzi and midfielder Olivier Niyonzima who both joined APR from Rayon Sports in June.

Also to miss the match is left-back Emmanuel Imanishimwe. On the visitors’ side, Rayon will have to deal with the absence of centre-back Herve Rugwiro who was arrested earlier this week allegedly for using falsified travel documents. The latter also joined Rayon from APR in July.

In their last 20 league matches, APR won 9 compared to Rayon’s five, while they shared points on six occasions.

APR are chasing a record-extending 18th title while reigning champions Rayon eye their tenth crown.

The clash between the two giants has always produced all sorts of entertainment and talking points on and off the field. The last time the two sides played to a barren draw in the league was during the 2016/17 season.

Referee Samuel Uwikunda will handle Saturday’s game.

pkamasa@newtimesrwanda.com

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