ZIMBABWE football champions FC Platinum will today face a tough tie against Sudanese giants Al Hilal Omdurman in their opening Group B match of the 2019-20 Caf Champions League at the Al-Hilal Stadium.
BY HENRY MHARA
The game kicks off at 9pm.
The Zvishavane-based side, who have been dominant in the local league for the past two seasons, are desperate to make a mark in the continent’s premier club competition.
They have fared below expectations in their previous appearances in this competition, with their last appearance ending in the group stage where they struggled.
While they publicly stated that reaching the group stage in the last campaign was their target and thus an achievement, behind closed doors, the management was reportedly unhappy.
Interim coach Lizwe Sweswe obviously knows the demands of his job, and would want to try and impress his bosses and convince them to give him the job permanently to replace Norman Mapeza.
To impress his demanding bosses, Sweswe will need to guide his team beyond what looks on paper, a very tough group.
But he is unfazed, and is targeting to win his first group match, even though his team is playing away from home.
“The best way to defend when you talk about defensive approaches, is to attack. We did not come here to sit, we will play our normal attacking game because we need a positive result. We can only get a positive result when the team is attacking,” Lizwe said.
The draw for the group stages may have been unkind to FC Platinum, Sweswe and his ambitions.
Besides the Sudanese giants, the group also has other seasoned campaigners in Etoile du Sahel and former champions Al Ahly of Egypt.
But Sweswe is not looking far into the campaign, choosing to focus on the immediate task.
He says he has done some research on Al Hilal, a team that was home to former Dynamos striker Edward Sadomba.
“We have been trying our best in terms of researching to know how they play. What is important at this level is to know their system of play, their culture and all the other things which we think are going to help us.”
Al Hilal have not been impressive on the continent, reaching the group stages just once in the last three seasons.
They have failed to go beyond the first round in the last two campaigns. Last season, they crashed out in the first round, and dropped down to the Caf Confederations Cup, where they managed to reach the quarterfinals.
The last time they had a good run was in 2015 when they reached the Caf Champions League semi-finals, with Edward Sadomba playing a huge part in that campaign when he top scored in the competition.
FC Platinum left for Khartoum earlier this week, and encountered a few problems on the way including losing their luggage.
But that has since been sorted, and Sweswe said his squad was ready for the match.
The team has been struggling with injuries in the last few months, which have seen the team drafting players from their developmental side for league matches.
Their situation has, however, improved of late, and Lizwe said they travelled with a strong squad with almost all their key players including Soccer Star finalist Never Tigere available.
They will also look to the experience and expertise of forward Rodwell Chinyengetere, who has played a key part in their success in the last two seasons.
After Al Hilal, FC Platinum host Etoile du Sahel next week before travelling to Al Ahly in late December.