The day Zimbabwe champions CAPS United left the country for a do or die away CAF Champions’ League group stage encounter against log leaders USM Algiers, it rained heavily in Harare.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Rain in winter is rare in this part of the world, something close to a miracle.
It may have been a good omen, showers of blessing for the Green Machine family who have confounded critics in the African safari.
Or perhaps the rains were just a natural process that was completely divorced from football matters.
But Makepekepe fresh from an emphatic victory over five-time African champions Zamalek, need a similar miraculous result at the July 5 Stadium in Algiers tonight.
Kick-off time is 9pm.
“We thank God for helping us overcome giants like Zamalek and TP Mazembe in this competition who have 10 champions league titles between them. We have performed miracles, thus far and I see more miracles happening for us in Algeria,” assistant coach Fungai Kwashi told Standardsport before departure.
In the reverse fixture, the Green Machine deservedly dismantled USM Algiers 2-1 to record their first ever win in the group stages.
However, tonight’s hosts — runners up in this competition two years ago — have won all their matches at home on the African safari so far and will not be an easy proposition.
CAPS United looked dead and buried a little over a week ago before whipping the Egyptian giants in style and have now a spring in their step.
“Everyone is upbeat, everyone is highly motivatied and have a spring in their step after last week’s result. This is the kind of a self-motivating match and like any other ambitious club, we are still dreaming,” Kwashi said.
“We are in a situation where we are going to play for a win like in any other game. We know exactly what we have to do with the work we have put in I see the green machine coasting to victory. It’s going to be a tough game but we are ready for it.”
The Harare giants will have to do the job without first choice goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda who failed to make the trip due to an ankle injury.
But they need Prosper Chigumba to replicate his performance from the Zamalek match.
Veteran striker Leonard Tsipa may never make a champions league appearance for CAPS United this season as he remained out with a long-term injury.
Coach Lloyd Chitembwe (pictured below) will find comfort in the fact that the bulk of key players are raring to go and this includes midfielder Tafadzwa Rusike who has been dogged by injury during the campaign.
A win for the Harare giants get them to progress to the quarterfinals of the competition for the first time in their history.
They could still progress to the CAF Confederations Cup competition with a loss should Zamalek fall to Al Ahli Tripoli at home.
USM Algiers boast of a number of players in the Algerian national team, including goalkeeper Lamine Zemmamouche, defenders Mohamed Rabie Meftah and Mohamed Benyahia as well as midfielder Mohamed Benkhemassa.