CAPS out to shrug off underdogs tag

HARARE - CAPS United forward Leonard Tsipa has urged his teammates to shrug off the underdogs tag when they face DR Congo giants TP Mazembe in the final qualifying round of the African Champions League tomorrow.

The Zimbabwean champions will charter a plane to Lubumbashi for the first leg, tomorrow at Stade TP Mazembe with the return leg scheduled for next week at the National Sports Stadium.

Tsipa is not eligible to play for the Green Machine in these qualifying stages after he was de-registered for the tournament having gone on a club-hunting mission at a time the club was finalising their squad.

The forward, who won the domestic Premiership Golden Boot last year, will be travelling with the squad to Lubumbashi to offer moral support to his teammates when they face the five-time African champions.

Tsipa, 35, will only be available for selection if Makepekepe get past Mazembe to reach the group stages of the competition.

“To be honest, I’m realistic; a lot of people won’t fancy us and we know we are the underdogs,” Tsipa told the Daily News.

“TP Mazembe are favourites but it’s a game of football and favourites sometimes have off days, so we will have to wait and see.

“Everything is stacked against us but that has made the boys stronger as a group and even more willing to go out and get a positive result.

“It will be hard and we may need a bit of luck and I know the lads won’t stop trying because there’s a lot of quality in the changing room and it’s about producing it on the day. I believe we have an exciting group that is eager to do well and it can only be revealed in games like this.”

Tsipa said the Green Machine is slowly showing the signs that saw them break an almost decade-long run without the championship last year.

Makepekepe struggled against Lesotho champions Lioli FC in the preliminary round of the competition last month.

Lloyd Chitembwe’s charges played out a goalless draw in the first leg in Maseru in a match both sides struggled to assert themselves.

The second leg at the National Sports Stadium proved to be a difficult encounter for the Zimbabwe champions as Tse Nale took a 1-0 first half lead.

United were able to turn around the match in the second half through goals from Simba Nhivi and new boy Ronald Chitiyo.

However, before completing the comeback, Makepekepe had endured anxious moments as goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda made some stunning saves to deny Lioli.

If Makepekepe put in a similar performance, then they will in all fairness be knocked out of the competition by Mazembe.

“The good thing is that everyone is geared up and wants a positive result. We are going there as underdogs but in football anything is possible,” Tsipa said.

“It will, however, not be easy and it needs everyone to work hard. The boys also need to be strong physically and mentally. I think if the boys can also follow instructions from the coaches, I am sure it will pay dividends for us.”

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe representatives in the African Confederation Cup, Ngezi Platinum Stars will be hoping for a positive result when they face Angolan side CRD Libolo at Estádio Municipal de Calulo in the first round first leg today.

The platinum miners arrived in Angola on Thursday afternoon and held one training session at the match venue with coach Tonderai Ndiraya confident of grinding a positive result before they can finish off their work at home a week later. 

“I can safely say we are now ready for them. We have been preparing and the boys are raring to go,” Ndiraya told our sister paper the Weekend Post.

“The reality is that we are going to play a very good and experienced side there is no doubt about that.

“They were among top eight teams in Africa last year and they have won the championship three or four times in the past six years, so they are not a small team. 

“We need to fight hard if we are to get a positive result. Thus because of their profile, we can’t go there and be careless.

“We are going there to contain them and maybe try to hit them on the counter. We need to go there and exercise caution and maybe try to finish them off at home.”

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