Suspensions could derail FC Platinum

HARARE - With key defender Elvis Moyo already suspended for FC Platinum next African Champions League Group B match against Horoya, coach Norman Mapeza must be concerned with his side’s disciplinary record.

The Zimbabwean champions are without a win in the competition after two matches and find themselves out of the top two positions to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Pure Platinum Play got their campaign in Group B off to a good start with a goalless draw against South African giants Orlando Pirates at Barbourfields Stadium two weeks ago.

Last Friday, Pure Platinum Play were in Tunis where they lost 2-0 to defending champions Esperance at the Stade El Menzah.

Yassine Khenissi scored on either side of the half as the visitors exhibited some poor defending on both occasions in a game of little margins.

Although they started the encounter as favourites, the Blood and Gold did not trouble FC Platinum a lot and if the Zimbabweans had been switched on when Khenissi pounced, they could have also emerged with another goalless draw.

Orlando Pirates now top the group on goal difference after their 3-0 destruction of Horoya in Soweto on Friday night with four points.

Esperance are also on four points to sit in second place and together with Pirates now appear to be the favourites to progress from the group.

After the draw with Pirates and the defeat to Esperance, Pure Platinum Play’s chances of making it into the last eight of the competition now rests on the double header with Horoya.

Mapeza’s men host the Guinean champions at Barbourfields on February 2 in what has now been turned into a must-win match.

The Zvishavane-based side will then travel to Conakry 11 days later to take on Horoya at the Stade du 28 Septembre.

With Esperance and Orlando Pirates also going head-to-head during the same period, FC Platinum will do themselves a lot of good if they can win twice in that six-pointer against Horoya.

However, Mapeza’s task has been complicated by the suspension of Moyo after the defender picked up two yellow cards thus far.

The left back was first cautioned in the goalless draw against AS Otoho at Mandava Stadium in the second leg of their final qualifier in December before picking up his second booking from Gambian referee Bakary Gassama on Friday in the second half of the defeat to Esperance.

This means the defender will be ineligible for the home tie against Horoya on February 2 and with his twin brother Kevin still recovering from a knee injury, Mapeza will have to shuffle his defence.

The FC Platinum coach will probably have to rely on Farai Madhanaga to drop back from his midfield role and operate at left back.

This is not an entirely new role for the 23-year-old, who has played at left back at all his previous clubs Monomotapa and Harare City.

But there is a catch there. Madhanaga is also carrying a yellow card after he was booked in second leg of the final qualifier against Otoho.

He is now just one card away from suspension and could miss the reverse fixture in Conakry if he is booked at Barbourfields.

Another option at left back for Mapeza could be new signing Godknows Murwira, who arrived from Ngezi Platinum Stars at the start of this month.

Murwira is very versatile and can play in any position across the backline and in midfield.

In FC Platinum’s defeat to Esperance, Gassama also brandished his card to strikers Gift Mbweti and Mkhokheli Dube in the first half.

Midfielder Rainsome Pavari was also cautioned for a high boot challenge on Blood and Gold midfield enforcer Franck Kom in the second.

Mbweti, Dube and Pavari are now also on the risk of getting suspended like their teammate Madhanaga.

Midfielder Kelvin Madzongwe and defender Lawrence Mhlanga were also booked in the 1-1 draw with Otoho in the first leg of the final qualifier in Owando, Congo back in December

This risk of suspension to key players will all complicate Mapeza’s life as he tries to plot getting all six points against Horoya in the next two games.

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