Zimbabwe’s Caf champions’ league representatives CAPS United fly out of the country today on a day-long trip to Tunisia for a crucial group stage tie against Libyan side Al-Ahli Tripoli.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
The match is set for the Stade Taïeb Mhiri in Sfax on Wednesday.
The Zimbabwean champions were punished for underrating the Libyan side in the reverse fixture played in Harare nine days ago, falling to a humiliating 4-2 defeat at the National Sports Stadium.
Then, coach Lloyd Chitembwe had to bear the brunt of an injury crisis which saw him fielding two injured players — Hardlife Zvirekwi and Tafadzwa Rusike, but this time he boasts a full strength squad. When they lost at home, CAPS were also without goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda and star defender Dennis Dauda who are this time in the starting line up.
After overseeing the team’s final training at Alex Sports Club yesterday, Chitembwe said his team had prepared well for the encounter to be played in Al Ahli’s adopted home, Tunis.
“We have always been preparing for this competition since the beginning of the year. I cannot say we are ready, but we have done our part in as far as preparing for the match is concerned,” he told Standardsport.
Chitembwe refused to throw in the towel regarding the team’s prospects of progressing to the knockout stages following the home defeat to Al Ahli. He was rather circumspect.
“We are going there to play our game as we have always done. It is our hope that we will be competitive once again against Al Ahli which is our only objective on this trip,” he said.
Makepekepe could have shot to the top of Group B that also has five-time Africa champions Zamalek as well as Algerian side USM Algiers with a home win over Al Ahli. But the Libyans had other ideas.
A win for Caps United in the midweek African safari fixture guarantees them second place regardless of the outcome of the contest between Zamalek and Algiers.
What the Green Machine cannot afford is a third group stages defeat which could all but snuff out their chances.
With veteran striker Leonard Tsipa still out injured, Chitembwe is set to retain the bulk of the team that played in the previous champions’ league encounter while the foreign strikers acquired by the club await proper documentation.
Chitembwe is buoyed by the return of Sibanda and Dauda while Zvirekwi and Rusike have had more time to recuperate.
“I cannot say they are all 100% fit, but it’s just that they are in a better state than they were in the last game which is good for us. We shall see if they are able to contribute to the team; the good thing is that they trained,” he said.
Caps United is set to leave Harare for Johannesburg in the afternoon before getting a connecting flight to Cairo, Eygpt where they are expected to arrive at 5am tomorrow.
The team will then take a two-hour flight to Tunis at 8am.