Sports Desk tips Vipers to win UPL

Thursday October 14 2021
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The thrills. Vipers players celebrate after being crowned champions of the 2021 Stanbic Uganda Cup at Fufa Technical Centre in Njeru early October. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE

By Makhtum Muziransa

The 2021/22 StarTimes Uganda Premier League kicks off tomorrow with three matches.  Champions Express start with a home tie against newly-promoted Arua Hill at Wankulukukuku. All games kick-off at 3pm with limited fans due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

However, the biggest storyline is that record league winners SC Villa are not part of the fixtures having failed to meet minimum licensing standards. 

Without them, we chose our champions and also highlighted what you should have out for. Read on. 

ISMAIL DHAKABA KIGONGO, HEAD OF SPORTS
Champions: 
I pick Vipers slightly ahead of Express because of the ability to score more than the rest 

What else? 
The league starting without SC Villa is a scandal. On the positive side, look out for what Arua Hill and Gadaffi will do this season.

INNOCENT NDAWULA, 
SUB-EDITOR
Champions: Express. 
They have the mettle and sheer will to do it on the bounce. The backroom staff is buoyed and players are assured of financial stability.

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What else? 
The build up to this season has been anything but fancy. Total shambles with the storylines emanating from Busoga United, SC Villa and power struggles all-over the park nothing to write home about. But watch out for Vipers, a truly championship side built on professional ethos, albeit lately!

JACOBS SEAMAN ODONGO, 
SUB-EDITOR
Champions: Vipers. 
Second: Police. Third: URA. Fourth: Express

What else? 
Police results. They will come through in shocks and balances as the Cops keep pace with top four to the end.

ANDREW MWANGUHYA, 
REPORTER
Champions: Vipers. 
I think they are a much solid team now, gelling youth and experience. They have maintained almost their entire team with Yunus Sentamu starting the new season at his best settled he has ever been in recent years. Add Bobosi Byaruhanga, who has been presented the stage to fully run the show and Vipers will be defending champions Express’ biggest challengers. Brazilian coach Robertinho Oliveira - for as long he is not overly interfered with by management - is primed to win it at his first time of asking.

What else? 
More goals and competitiveness. I think we are going to see a continued increase in goal scoring across the league, plus more competition as the latest Cranes set-up has showed that everyone can have a shot. The benefits of making it to the national team cannot be emphasized enough.

ELVIS SENONO, REPORTER
Champions: Vipers.
There has been relative calm at Vipers considering the squad overhauls usually associated with the club every off season. New Brazilian coach Robertinho already appears to have given them new identity as seen in the Uganda Cup.
Express have also maintained the same squad but are overly reliant on Eric Kambale for goals.

What else? 
Bright Stars will push the more established sides. They finished fifth last season.
I also expect the promoted sides to be more competitive. Arua Hill, Gaddafi, Tooro United. Last season only one survived, UPDF.

DENIS BBOSA, REPORTER
Champions: Vipers.
They have not been active in the transfer market implying they just need to polish the avalanche of talented players they have. With an enviable squad depth and about eight national team stars, Vipers are good to go. Add that to the experience of their Brazilian coach Robertinho, and you have a hungry and well fed Venom-ous side ready to pounce and sting.

What else? 
Express, URA and KCCA should give Vipers a run for their money. New entrants Gaddafi and Arua Hill will shock a few big wigs as they fight to stay afloat, Villa off-the- field troubles might distract their youthful team from growing to desired levels and the level of competition amongst the players will rise since they are all jostling for the now wide open opportunity to play for the national team.

GEORGE KATONGOLE,
 REPORTER
Champions: Vipers.

What else? Fans should look out for beautiful football from Vipers. Their new style is likely to get the best out of them. I think they are a joy to watch. But the summit of shame would be to have the league without SC Villa simpy because of someone’s ego that is bigger than the Rwenzori!

FRED MWAMBU, REPORTER
Champions: Vipers 
The Venoms didn’t venture much into the transfer market for serious buys but the depth in their squad is astonishing by Ugandan standards! The Brazilian looks like he is already striking the right chords; the team is passing with flare and pouncing on attack. 

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Lynchpin. Vipers’Yunus Sentamu hopes to carry last season’s form into the new season. Bottom: Express striker Eric Kambale PHOTOS/JOHN BATANUDDE

What else? 
Everyone’s other eye should be kept on the newbies Arua Hill - there’s something brewing in that Kongolo den. From coach Livingston Mbabazi’s capture to the signings, teams should go to Arua with some caution. I see an unbeaten home run for the whole season.

JOHN BATANUDDE, 
PHOTOGRAPHER
Champions: Vipers 
 Vipers have a good  squad and with the Brazilian coach they will be unstoppable.

What else? 
Villa will surprise some teams because they have a team balanced with young and experienced players.

FELIX MANYINDO, REPORTER (NTV)
Champions: Vipers.
Despite the league having well financed sides such as KCCA and Vipers, it’s not impossible to call. 
Like Express showed just ended season, the trophy always goes to whoever is most organised. 
I’ll go for Vipers right now. They seem to be well prepared for the season. Though I expect Express to put up a serious fight to retain their title. 

What else? 
One of the most interesting things to look out for will be the two derbies in Arua with Onduparaka having to deal with another bull in the kraal Arua Hill.

REGINA NALUJJA, REPORTER
Champions: Express.
The defending champions will retain the title since their players have been active playing in the Caf Champions League. Unlike other league clubs, they have not changed coaches hence they will maintain the same old style and techniques that helped them win last season. However Vipers and KCCA should not be underestimated as they have shown dominancy in the previous seasons.

What else? 
I would want to see if foreign coaches; Viper’s Roberto Oliveira and Villa’s Petros Koukouras will make a difference for these clubs.

DARREN ALLAN KYEYUNE, 
REPORTER
Champions: Vipers
The league champion will most likely be decided by the first round performance because the fixture list is going to be congested.
Therefore, Vipers are at an advantage as they relatively have better depth in quality and were definitely hurt but missing out last season.

EMANZI NDYAMUHAKI, 
REPORTER
Champions: Vipers.
They still have a very strong squad with goals in it. Yunus Ssentamu and Ceaser Manzoki deal in goals and showed that last season. I expect them to score even more this campaign.
The growth of Bobosi Byaruhanga, addition of Bright Anukani give Vipers the creative personnel in midfield to create goals.
Also, let’s not forget Vipers were still very much in the race before the league was stopped last season.

What else?
 I expect to see a KCCA side grinding out results and not necessarily about the flair that fans have come to get used to in the past. The signings made point to a more result oriented side and not one to dwell on ‘our way’. 
It is a big season for Morley Byekwaso but the signings brought in might take some time to click and challenge for the title.

MAKHTUM MUZIRANSA, 
REPORTER
Champions: Vipers
 This is threatening to look like one way traffic for Vipers owing to their squad depth, quality and the organization so far displayed by their new coach Robertinho Oliveira.

What else? 
Same old UPL; late start made worse by the Villa and Busoga United licensing fiascos. So expect fixture congestion, unnecessary breaks and a late end.
Also Police, URA, Bright Stars will convince here and there before they ‘stealthily’ fade away like they have done in the past.
But at least the people of Arua will enjoy a proper derby that is about fans and football thanks to Onduparaka and Arua Hill.

Compiled by Makhtum Muziransa

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