Express did not make the best start to their StarTimes Uganda Premier League title defence, but the champions have made steady strides and have recently looked more like their title-winning form.
The Red Eagles are third in the league going into a highly winnable clash against relegation strugglers Bright Stars at the Betway Muteesa II Stadium on Friday afternoon.
It is a position that few expected them to occupy after winning only one of their opening four fixtures. But only five points separate them from the leaders KCCA, after a run of 13 games unbeaten.
Another victory will see them cut the gap to two points, and despite KCCA holding two games in hand, Wasswa Bbosa’s team would still be in the hunt even if they are won.
But before they can dream, Bbosa has implored his team to make sure they finish the first round on a high by securing a victory on Wednesday.
“We struggled at the start because of injuries, and maybe the fatigue had got to certain players after such a tight schedule. But we have recovered well since, and the performance has improved,” Bbosa explained.
“We are now more confident and in a better situation than we were at the start of the season. We are within reach of the front runners, and we want to keep pushing closer to them as much as we can.”
“The target was 30 points at the start, but we can finish on 29, which is close, and that is something we can build on in the second round, but we have to focus on finishing the first round on a high,” he added.
Bright Stars have fallen on tough times this season, after an excellent performance last season where they finished fifth – the highest league finish by the club.
The club has backslidden into the relegation zone, and there seems to be no end to their free fall from grace even after they had a change of coaches.
They have won only two games this season, both coming under Simon Peter Mugerwa; their latest victory coming on Tuesday following their 1-0 victory over SC Villa. However, Bbosa is not getting carried away with its form.
“We recognise that they are struggling at the moment,” he said, adding; “But you do not want to be overconfident in your approach because they are a team that can hurt you.”
“They still have the quality within the team to cause havoc against any team in the league. They have a coach Simon Peter Mugerwa) of huge potential, and capable of producing some magic.”
“We have to be professional in the way we approach and treat the game, and can only relax after the 90 minutes are done,” Bbosa stated.
This will be the 14th meeting between both sides, with the Red Eagles managing five wins while Soltilo Bright Stars have picked up two wins with six draws between both sides.
Bbosa and Express will still carry memories of that shocking 2-1 defeat against their visitors in April. Then, Express were in cruise control of the title race and had lost only once in 18 games, but Bright Stars were about to change that through goals from Sam Ssekamatte and Emanuel Loki.
The two will not be involved for Bright Stars on Wednesday. Loki is still carrying an injury, while Ssekamatte moved away from the club.
Mugerwa will welcome back youngster Ivan Irinimbabazi from suspension, while Andrew Kyambadde could also return.
There will be an emotional return to his former side for Joseph Akandwanaho. Mahad Yaya Kakooza and Nicholas Kasozi both return after suspension and illness respectively. Abel Eturude and Arthur Kiggundu remain side-lined.
Murushid Juuko, who was replaced at the last minute before Express’ 2-0 away win against Tooro United due to illness will have to pass a late fitness test.