Accra Hearts of Oak will host their arch-rivals, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, in a super clash of the 2023/2024 Ghana Premier League season at the Baba Yara Stadium at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Interestingly, the Phobians will be hosting the game in the territory of the sworn rivals instead of the Accra Sports Stadium, which has been temporarily closed to sporting activities by the National Sports Authority (NSA).
The highly-anticipated matchday 14 top liner follows Hearts management’s reaction to allegations of influencing player selection. The Phobians would hope to turn the tide under interim coach, Abdul Rahim Bashiru, who replaced the accuser, Martin Koopman, a few weeks ago.
The Phobians have not fared well in the league so far, sitting in eighth place after 13 games. Goalscoring has been a significant challenge, with only three wins (two at home), seven draws, and three losses.
They, however, believe their second home could breathe a new lease of life into their disappointing campaign, which was capped by a penalty shootout loss at home to Nania FC in the MTN FA Cup last week.
Hearts opted to play the match in Kumasi instead of an alternate venue in Accra or the Cape Coast Stadium, a decision which their supporters' chief, Elvis Herman Hesse, believes would favour them.
He argued that playing in Kumasi offered a financial advantage as their remaining opponents were mainly located in the northern sector, making travel easier. Additionally, Hearts boast of a large following in Kumasi, creating a favourable environment for the match.
Their past successes in Kumasi, including the 2004 CAF Confederation Cup triumph over Kotoko, provide inspiration for a strong performance this weekend.
However, improving their poor form in front of goal will be crucial. They have scored only nine goals and conceded eight. Five of those goals have come from Hamza Issah, who has struggled alongside Kwadwo Obeng Junior and Eric Esso.
Kotoko have been much better in the league, sitting three points ahead of Hearts in seventh place. However, their form under coach Prosper Narteh Ogum mirrored that of Hearts.
However, a recent surge of three consecutive victories against Medeama SC, Legon Cities and Berekum Chelsea has propelled them up the table and within five points of leaders, Aduana FC.
Kotoko are entering the tie as favourites after snapping their three-game losing streak against Medeama. Mohammed Sheriff's penalty helped them secure all three points.
Ugandan import, Stephen Mukwala, and Isaac Oppong have also found their scoring boots lately, and a settled midfield duo of Justice Blay and Richmond Lamptey will be key to Kotoko's victory.
Meanwhile, Referee Reginald Collins Amoah will officiate the match, assisted by Ali Timuah Baah and Mikaal-II Fauzan, with Gabriel Opoku Arhin as the fourth official and Adam Munkaila as the Match Commissioner.
In the other fixtures, high-flying Nsoatreman FC will play host to Karela United at the Nana Professor Koromansa II Park; Samartex will face Heart of Lions at the Nsenkyire Sports Arena; Berekum Chelsea will lock horns with Great Olympics at the Golden City Park; Legon Cities will face Real Tamale United at the Sogakope WAFA Park, and Bechem United will play host to Accra Lions at the Bechem Park.