Exit CHAN, enter Confederations Cup
With Zambian football bruised following Chipolopolo’s dismal show at the African Nations Championship (CHAN), Confederation Cup Envoys Nkana and Napsa Stars have opportunity to try and save the country’s face on the continental stage this weekend.
Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s Chipolopolo were torn apart by eventual Champions Morocco leaving Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Andrew Kamanga calling for a post-mortem.
The post-mortem can as well start this weekend when Nkana and Napsa take to the field for their continental engagements. In any case, one of the reasons given for Zambia’s elimination from the CHAN is the weak domestic league. Micho cited the Moroccan league as being far superior to that of Zambia.
Well, Nkana have Moroccan opposition, The Zambian champions will welcome Moroccan side TAS Casablanca in the first leg of the pre – group stage of the Confederation Cup at Nkana Stadium while NAPSA face Kenyan side Gor Mahia away in Nairobi.
A win for the two clubs over two legs sends them to the lucrative group stage.
After their elimination from the Champions League following their 2 – 1 aggregate loss to Angolan side Petro Atletico, Nkana dropped to the Confederation Cup, where they will be hoping to make the group stage for the second consecutive time.
Unfortunately for Nkana fans, their form is worrying. But that is not only them, even NAPSA have been disappointing on the home front.
In their last five games, from a possible 15 points Nkana have only managed to collect six points after winning twice and testing defeat three times.
However, despite having lost striker Idris Mbombo in the January transfer window, Nkana have been potent in front of goal thanks to the form of striker Simon Mulenga.
The Kitwe giants can go into the match this weekend confident that they are able to get a goal, having managed to score eight goals in their last five games averaging 1.6 goals per game.
Their scoring prowess has been aided by the acquisition of adventurous midfielder Emmanuel Mwiinde and the consistency of Obed Masumbuko.
These players will be key in helping Nkana’s cause on Sunday as they seek to take advantage before the return leg seven days later.
What will be of huge concern for Kaindu however is the way his team defends. Nkana have conceded seven times in their last five league games while keeping two clean sheets.
Gilroy Chimwemwe and Kings Moyo have been brought in to help stabilise the back line which has looked dejected for the larger part of the season.
It is games like these that the Zimbabwean nationals will have to prove their worth and help Nkana keep what will only be their second clean sheet at home in continental football this season.
Nkana will have to draw some inspiration from the team’s run in the 2018 – 2019 campaign where they reached the quarterfinals of the competition.
After being eliminated from the Champions League by Tanzanian side Simba, Nkana dropped to the Confederation Cup where they played FC San Pedro of Ivory Coast at this stage.
After a 3 – 0 aggregate win over San Pedro, Nkana qualified to the Group Stage where they ended up finishing second in a Group that boasted of Sudan’s Al Hilal, Ghanaian heavyweights Asante Kotoko and compatriots Zesco United.
A Beston Chambeshi – tutored side faltered in the quarterfinals after they lost 3 – 2 on aggregate to Tunisians CS Sfaxien.
However, so much has changed since that time for Nkana, with Chambeshi having been long gone and Kaindu taking over in between Manfred Chabinga’s reign.
While the Moroccan league may be stronger, as seen by the performance of the country’s top sides in continental competitions, Nkana can take some comfort that their opponents play in Morocco’s second division and have not been in the best of form in their recent matches.
TAS have not won a match this year following four draws and two defeats in six games since the turn of the calendar.
The Moroccans’ last victory came two days before Christmas when they beat Benin side FC Esae 4 – 0 in the Confederation Cup.
While their striking force has been potent, the team has not done well in their backline. They have conceded 12 times in their last six games averaging two goals per game.
This is a record that Nkana can glance at and feel they have a chance.
As for NAPSA Stars, the 1 – 0 win over Nkwazi at the weekend to end a disastrous winless run in the Super Division came as a boost.
Coach Mohamed Fathi believes so.
“The win is a good preparation for our game in Kenya. It has motivated the players ant it is a good sign for us,” Fathi said.
It has been a bittersweet seasons for the Pensioners, one that has seen them doing well in international games but failing to replicate the performance locally.
But what a boost it will be if NAPSA can win away against Gor Mahia who have been in decent form with three wins, one lose and one draw in their last five games.
[Zambia Daily Mail]
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