Clash of egos as APR host Rayon

Leaders APR and third-placed Rayon are separated by just six points
APR FC forward Muhadjiri Hakizimana (C) vies for the ball with Rayon Sports midfielders Pierrot Kwizera (L) and Seph Niyonzima (R) in a past league match at Kigali Stadium. (Sam Ngendahimana)

Today, 3:30pm

APR            vs     Rayon Sports 
Miroplast    vs     Etincelles
Kirehe         vs     AS Kigali
Espoir         vs     Amagaju
Police          vs     Marines
Gicumbi      vs     Musanze
Mukura       vs     Sunrise
Bugesera     vs     SC Kiyovu

It will be a battle of titans today as APR and Rayon Sports lock horns today at Amahoro National Stadium, in the most charged game in Rwandan football – starting at 3:30pm.

Besides the anxiety this particular fixture creates among the two rivals and their supporters, today’s game will be a matter of life and death for the reigning champions while on the other hand, APR need the crucial three points to edge closer to a record-extending 17th league title.

Going into today’s clash, APR lead the standings with 51 points, six ahead of third-placed Rayon Sports. Both sides have five games to play ahead of the league’s June 27 climax.

AS Kigali are another team in the title race, also with 51 points from 25 matches.

Should they beat Kirehe today and the military side drop points, Eric Nshimiyimana’s side will rise to the top.

While speaking to Times Sport on Thursday, APR assistant coach Jimmy Mulisa said, “This is our most important game this season – like every other season. A victory on Friday (today) means a lot to our title chase, we will fight with all that we got to collect maximum points”.

The former APR and Amavubi forward is optimistic his players are fit and fired up to deliver when they face bitter rivals this afternoon.

“It is a derby; always a tough game on both sides. But sometimes you have to put history aside and focus on the game at hand, which is exactly what we intend to do. The players are in good shape and understand well the magnitude of the assignment,” Mulisa added.

The military side will be boosted by the comeback of skipper Jean Baptiste ‘Migi’ Mugiraneza who has missed the club’s last three games.

On the other hand, midfielder Djihad Bizimana will be playing his last game in APR shirt before joining his new Belgian top division side, Waasland-Beveren next week.

In a separate interview, Rayon Sports caretaker Corneille Hakizimana told Times Sport that “Despite the ongoing troubles in the team, players have not lost focus and will be facing APR in full force. If we lose, we will be out of the title race. It’s a must-win game”.

The Blues are also boosted by the return of goalie and team captain Eric ‘Bakame’ Ndayishimiye and centre-back Faustin Usengimana who both missed last Friday’s league fixture against Musanze that ended in a goalless draw.

On both sides, today’s encounter will see some of the players facing their former teams.

Former APR players including goalkeeper Bakame, Abdoul Rwatubyaye, Yannick Mukunzi, Eric Rutanga and Faustin Usengimana are all expected to be on the starting line-up for Rayon whilst Emmanuel Imanishimwe, Albert Ngabo, Djihad Bizimana and Dominique Savio Nshuti plied their trade at Rayon Sports before joining the 16-time champions.

Since 1995, the two archrivals have met 85 times in all competitions. APR have won 35 wins, Rayon registered 27 victories while both sides played out draws on 14 occasions.

Elsewhere in match-day 26 fixtures, Miroplast host Etincelles, Espoir face Amagaju, Police take on Marines, Gicumbi will be up against Musanze, Mukura play Sunrise while Bugesera and SC Kiyovu square-off at Nyamata playgrounds.


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