By Frank Kamuntu
There will not be a return to the Green Light Stadium, in Arua, for duo Shaban Muhamad and Rashid Toha, when table leaders Vipers visit Onduparaka on Saturday afternoon in the StarTimes Uganda Premier League.
Both teams have made impressive starts to the season, with Vipers still unbeaten in the league after eight games and Onduparaka sitting fourth on the table.
Certainly, the hosts will expect to hold their own against any of the traditional big boys; they have already beaten Express but were washed aside by KCCA FC. They will have more belief than most that they can pull off an upset over Vipers.
Plenty of teams have tried and failed in conquering Arua, and an away game against Onduparaka is arguably the toughest assignment in Ugandan football at the moment.
It remains to be seen whether Vipers are brave enough to give it as much of a go as the URA side who have already got the better of Onduparaka at home this season.
But it would have given the Venoms confidence that a rather conservative and patient style can hurt Onduparaka.
If there is a notable area for improvement for Onduparaka right now then it is their performance in front of goal, with the Caterpillars scoring more than once this season in only one game against Express.
Vipers inherited top spot last week when they picked up a narrow 2-1 home win over BUL Bidco on Tuesday.
The Venoms looked to be headed for another huge home victory when they raced into a 2-0 goal lead, inside the half-hour, before BUL pulled one back, and then mounted a huge search for an equalizer.
Ultimately, it was another victory for the Venoms; their fourth in a row and ninth in their last eleven league games. Their longest unbeaten run since they went 34 league games without defeat (between December 2017 and February 2019).
On the road however, Vipers have won just eight of their last 18 league games. Incidentally, they have lost just once against last season’s relegated side Ndejje University, but that remains their only loss on the road in that period.
Overall, both sides have met six times in the league since their encounter in the Uganda Cup finals in 2016. Vipers have won three games and lost just once while two games have ended in barren draws.
At the Greenlight stadium though, only Shaban (now at Vipers) has scored a goal in this fixture, as his goal guided Onduparaka to a 1-0 victory.
Vipers welcome back youngster Abdul Watambala who missed out their previous game against BUL FC with a knock. Goalkeeper Derrick Ochan also returns for this one while Ibrahim Tembo and Henry Kitegenyi can be called upon by coach Edward Golola.
Striker Dan Sserunkuuma was not part of the travelling squad, together with midfielder Rahmat Senfuka who is still recovering from a bout of fever. Toha and Shaban remain long term absentees and will only watch from the sidelines.
Ezra Bida could be the only major injury concern for Livingstone Mbabazi, who also makes a return to the touchline after missing their last game against KCCA as he was away on national duty with the Cranes in Ethiopia.
Records show that their previous meetings ,
Onduparaka 0-0 Vipers
Vipers 3-0 Onduparaka
Vipers 2-0 Onduparaka
Onduparaka 0-0 Vipers
Vipers 4-1 Onduparaka
Onduparaka 1-0 Vipers