ROBINSON KUNDA, Niamey
ZAMBIA will today be looking for victory to put their 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign back on track when they face equally-troubled Niger at Stade Seyni Kountche in Niamey.
Itâ€™s an encounter neither side can afford to lose, more so for Zambia, who only two years ago tasted African glory and would want to continue riding the crest of the wave.
With one point from a possible six, no margin of error will be permissible as the Chipolopolo, handicapped by the absence of defence kingpin Stopilla Sunzu, hope to defuse the hostsâ€™ homeground advantage.
The situation is precarious for Zambia as defeat would almost certainly end the Chipolopoloâ€™s campaign and boost Nigerâ€™s in this four-horse race where only the top two are assured of qualification.
Coach Honour Janza should get his tactics right and seek the expertise of his newly-engaged assistant Nico Labohm to confine the Menas to defeat.
Zambia have only a point from two matches after drawing 0-0 with Mozambique in Ndola before losing 1-2 to Cape Verde in Praia.
â€œWe have no choice but to beat Niger,â€ Janza said.
Like Zambia, Niger also have a point after losing 0-3 to Cape Verde in Niamey and drawing 1-1 with Mozambique in Maputo.
Cape Verde lead Group F with six points from two games while Mozambique are second with two points.
With Sunzu missing, Nkanaâ€™s Christopher Munthali will step in to partner Nyambe Mulenga in central defence.
The two were at the heart of the defence in Wednesdayâ€™s training session against Division Two outfit K-Stars, a game the Chipolopolo won 11-0 at National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
Donashano Malama or Kabaso Chongo and Emmanuel Mbola will man the right and left wings, respectively.
Kennedy Mweene is a sure starter in goal.
Nathan Sinkala will play in front of the defence while Rainford Kalaba, Chisamba Lungu, skipper Christopher Katongo or Fwayo Tembo will dictate play in midfield as the Chipolopolo chase for a first win.
In attack, James Chamanga and Jacob Mulenga will hunt for goals.
Chamanga accounted for a hat-trick in the 11-0 bashing of K-Stars and will be seeking to punish the West Africans.
In case the two strikers fail to tick, Emmanuel Mayuka and Ronald â€˜Sate Sateâ€™ Kampamba could be introduced.
Mayuka, of English Premiership side Southampton, scored four past K-Stars.
But Niger are equally in search of a first win and will take the match to Zambia.
In striker Moussa Maazou, who features for Portuguese side CS Maritimo, Niger have a deadly weapon.
Another player who could change the match is Douda Kamilou of Cameroonian side Coton Sport.
â€œZambia is a great team, big players who are playing for big clubs and big championships. I donâ€™t have such players. But itâ€™s possible to beat them. Zambia has one point, we have one point also. We have to play well and when we play well we have a chance to win,â€ Niger coach Gernot Rohr said in an interview yesterday.
The return leg is set for next Wednesday at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
ROBINSON KUNDA, Niamey