Mhlanga back in familiar settings

CONAKRY – The last time Lawrence Mhlanga was in Conakry was two years ago when the Warriors took on Guinea in the reverse fixture of their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier.

Zimbabwe were beaten 1-0 at the Stade du 28 Septembre but the result had very little effect as the national team had already sealed their qualification for the Afcon finals which were held in Gabon.

Mhlanga started that game at the heart of the Warriors’ backline in a partnership with Costa Nhamoinesu.

Tonight, the centre back returns to the same stadium but this time with FC Platinum, who unlike the Warriors back then, want nothing short of a victory to revive their chances of making it to the knockout stages of the African Champions League.

The former Chicken Inn defender is one of the senior players expected to play a huge role when Pure Platinum Play face Guinea champions Horoya AC hoping to register their first win in Group B after three games.

The reigning Zimbabwean champions currently anchor their group with a single point and need to win their remaining three matches if they are to salvage any hopes of making it to quarter-finals.

And ahead of the crucial encounter, Mhlanga has been sharing his previous experience from tonight’s venue with his teammates in order to help them cope with the challenges they are likely to face.  

“We are anticipating a tough tie. As the home side, they are likely to enjoy a lot of support. I remember the last time I was here with the Warriors; it was almost a full capacity stadium. People here are so passionate about football and I expect the same against Horoya,” Mhlanga told the Daily News.

“It’s a big game for us and we cannot afford to lose. We need to work really hard for the entire match to get a positive result. I believe if we work hard nothing is impossible.

“I believe if we can defend well and try make full use of chances that come our way, we will achieve our goal.

“Hard work has no limitations but of course we need not to put ourselves under pressure. We have come here with one goal and that is to pick a positive result.”

And having failed to score in their last three group matches, Mhlanga feels there is no better way to silence their critics by getting off the blocks against Horoya tonight.

“We will have to stay focused throughout and make sure that the occasion does not get the better out of us. It’s important that we contain them since they are playing at home because they are likely to come at us,” he said.

“It’s not a secret that we have not been scoring lately. But this is a good platform for us to kick-start our campaign by getting the much-needed goals. We need to score if we are to salvage any hopes to go far.

“The good thing is that as players we are aware of the task at hand and what should be done. So yes, we are ready for them.”

After their match against Horoya, FC Platinum will then travel to South Africa for a date against Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on March 8 before concluding their group matches with a home tie against Tunisian giants Esperance on March 16.

A win tonight will give them a lot of confidence and belief going into those final two matches against the Sea Robbers and the Blood and Gold.

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