“It’s getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it,” said former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2003 as the EPL title race heat up.
The same words can be borrowed for now as the Uganda Premier League gets into its final bend with three giants.
With only four league games remaining in 2020/21, we are in the home stretch of arguably the most exciting title races in the recent past.
Express sit atop with 58 points, URA are second with 57, Vipers are third with 56.
In comparison to the past few years, the UPL has been unusually unpredictable this season with plenty of changing leadership as no team has been entirely consistent the whole campaign.
With the season set for an unusual exciting finish, there is plenty to empty as Ismael Kiyonga writes.
Express FC’s Resurgence
Express FC’s season has been defined by a slow start that has developed into a hot finish.
In their first seven games, the Red Eagles won only three drawing the rest and that placed them in fifth on the table and it looked like winning their first title since 2012 wasn’t a possibility.
After a slow start, they went on to win five games on the bounce before slipping again, winning two in seven and losing as many.
However, they have since engaged gear one and won a record seven games in a row to put them on top of the table.
They have the best defensive record in the league with only 13 goals conceded and have scored 44 goals; the fourth-most in the league.
Despite injuries to key players George Senkaaba, Abel Eturude and Arthur Kiggundu, Eric Kambale has established himself as their most important player and talisman tallying 15 goals and several assists in the league.
Their remaining four matches come against opponents with a point to prove but Express have proven themselves capable of stepping up whenever they need to.
Against the giants, the Wasswa Bbosa’s men have lost none drawing with KCCA, beating URA and Police twice, beaten Vipers once and also drawn with them once.
Their notable remaining opponents include Wakiso Giants and KCCA away from home.
But after wins over both Vipers and URA, their title hopes are as high as ever for the first time in a while.
URA’s two sides
URA dropped just nine points in their first round games picking 36 out of a possible 45 points and was top of the table.
But the inconsistency in the second round finds them second, one point behind new leaders Express FC who assumed table leadership after URA’s stunning defeat at Kyetume.
The tax collectors have been impressive per say but their double loss to Express and throwing away the lead in the draw at Vipers SC were a huge blow to their title hopes but the season isn’t over yet.
On paper, they have the less demanding games with three of the four remaining fixtures against teams (Kitara, Busoga United and MYDA) in the bottom half and the demanding one at Wakiso Giants.
Their goal scoring record stands at 41 goals (ranked 5th) with the impressive Steven Mukwala with over 13 goals leading the line and conceded just 18 (2nd ranked defence).
Vipers’ fall from Grace
Vipers’ season has been the textbook definition of a “fall from grace.” The champions started the season fine form with full of energy and didn’t lose any of their first nine league games.
In fact they lost only two games in first round and won 33 out of a possible 45 points in the first round beating giants Villa and KCCA, edging on form Police then and managing to pick a point at Express FC.
But since going into the second round, they won only 7 games, losing two and drawing as many.
That stat is not bad but what have made them slip to third is failure to pick points off fellow competitors after a bitter home defeat to Express and then a draw with URA.
It’s difficult to attribute anything to their dip in form but perhaps pressure playing in front of home fans hasn’t left them the same as they are winless in six home games in all competitions in a row.
Could it be a story of losing momentum and reverting to their old ways whenever they are defending the title?
At the moment, they are two points behind the leaders and one adrift of second placed URA implying that they can’t afford any slip up.
They have scored 56 goals in the league (ranked 1st), conceded 21 (ranked 4th) and are headlined by the leading scorer; Yunus Sentamu with 16 goals.
Looking at their remaining schedule, three of their remaining four opponents are in the bottom half; Onduparaka, Kyetume and Bul with one in the top half; Police FC.
With the top of the table as congested as it is, The Venoms will have to regain their early-season form in order to finish as champions.