We don't fear TP Mazembe: Chitembwe

HARARE - CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe believes his side is now ready to take on African giants TP Mazembe in their own backyard in Lubumbashi this weekend.

Makepekepe travel to the Stade TP Mazembe this Sunday for the first leg of their African Champions League final round qualifier.

This is a venue where the five-time African champions have not lost a continental match since 2014 and judging by history, Makepekepe will be in for a rough ride this weekend.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) side will employ all kinds of mind games in order to frustrate the Zimbabwe champions as they seek to return to the competition’s group stages which they missed last season following defeat to Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca.

In 2013, South African side Orlando Pirates defied the odds to dump the Ravens out of the same competition despite blatantly dubious officiating from the referees in favour of the home side.

Pirates had former defender and captain Lucky Lekgwathi sent off in the first half for a soft challenge while Mazembe went on to be awarded two controversial penalties that were both saved by the late Senzo Meyiwa.

On Sunday, Makepekepe will enter the cauldron of Stade TP Mazembe where the home side, who are also the reigning African Confederation Cup champions, will be backed by their 18 000-strong supporters.

However, Chitembwe is confident his team will not be overawed by the occasion or any of the mind games the DRC champions might try to adopt and throw his side off the rails.   

“We know what TP Mazembe are capable of. We are aware of what to expect in Lubumbashi but all the same what we are focusing on is our commitment and determination,” Chitembwe told the Daily News yesterday.

“If we are committed and fully determined I’m sure, we should be able to get a result that will make us very comfortable going into the second leg at home.”

The game on Sunday will be played on artificial turf and with Rufaro Stadium now reverting back to natural grass, Makepekepe have been conducting their training sessions at the Zifa Village in Mt Hampden.

Makepekepe will be travelling to DRC on a chartered plane on Sunday morning and will quickly jet out after the final whistle. Just like in the preliminary round against Lesotho side Lioli FC, Makepekepe will not have time to train at the match venue.

But Chitembwe is not losing any sleep over this travel arrangement.

“Pitches are of the same size and the fact that they are playing on an artificial pitch, also explains why we have been training here (Zifa Village),” he said.

“The conditions are basically almost the same so I don’t think we have to worry about it. These are also the modern trends in the best footballing nations.

“We don’t need to be there for 30 days preparing for the game but what you need is just to have good preparations at home and then fly in there and do what you are meant to do. It’s not a big issue.”

Sunday’s match will be Mazembe’s fourth game of 2017 after the DRC Super Ligue was disrupted by the civil unrest in the central African country due to President Joseph Kabila’s growing unpopular rule.

There were protests in the country’s major cities last year, forcing the government to stop Super Ligue matches in mid December.

The competition finally resumed at the end of February and new Mazembe coach Roger Froger has only taken charge of two matches since his appointment.

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