VICTOR KUMWENDA, Lusaka
THE 2017 season kicks off today with the Samuel â€˜Zoomâ€™ Ndhlovu Charity Shield semi-final clash between rivals Zanaco and Nkana at Arthur Davies Stadium in Kitwe.
Zanaco are the Super Division champions while Nkana finished third on the log.
In a lunchtime kickoff at the same venue, Charity Shield reigning champions Power Dynamos will battle it out with Zesco United, who were runners-up to Zanaco.
ZANACO v NKANA
The teams met three times last year with Zanaco winning twice and Nkana emerging victorious once.
Zanaco edged Nkana 2-0 in a Super Division Week Seven match on July 2, 2016 in Lusaka but the Kitwe giants won 4-2 in the return leg.
Zanaco trounced Nkana 4-0 in the Barclays Cup semi-finals in Kitwe.
Zanaco coach Mumamba Numba is looking beyond the semi-finals.
â€œI think we have struggled on the road against Nkana. But letâ€™s see what happens on Thursday [today]. Otherwise we have prepared adequately and the players are looking forward to the game,â€ he said.
Numba is expected to start with the same line-up that eliminated Young Africans of Tanzania from the CAF Champions League.
Racha Kola is likely to start in goal with Taonga Bwembya, Chongo Chirwa, George Chilufya and skipper Ziyo Tembo in defence.
In midfield, Richard Kasonde, Boyd Musonda and Augustine Mulenga will dictate play while Ghanaian Attram Kwame and Kennedy Musonda will chase for goals.
Kwame struck the all-important goal against Young in Dar es Salaam that secured the teamâ€™s maiden Champions League group stage qualification.
However, Nkana coach Zeddy Saileti is optimistic of a positive result.
â€œWe are happy that we have an opportunity to play such a competitive game, before the season opens. We hope to win the semi-final so that we play in the final. This will give us an opportunity to play one more competitive game,â€ Saileti said.
Nkana will look to goalpoacher Walter Bwalya, Ronald Kampamba, Diego Apanane and Fred Tshimenga to overcome Zanaco and prove that the Kitwe giants will be a force to reckon with this season.
Bwalya was Super Division top scorer with 24 goals last season.
Zanaco last won the Charity Shield in 2006 while Nkana bagged it in 2014.
POWER v ZESCO
It is a repeat of the Charity Shield 2016 semi-final when the teams met at the same stage.
Power edged Zesco 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
But Zesco managed a double over Power in the league winning 2-1 on April 2 in Kitwe and 4-0 in Ndola.
Zesco last bagged the Charity Shield in 2015.
Zesco coach Zlatko Krmpotic will look to Jesse Were, Jackson Mwanza, Idris Mbombo, John Chingâ€™andu, Anthony Akumu and Kondwani Mtonga to continue with their dominance over Power.
But Power coach Dan Kabwe will rely on Lyson Sikaonga and Martin Phiri for goals.
Francis Kasonde will marshal the backline while Fwayo Tembo, Godfrey Ngwenya, Larry Bwalya and Kennedy Mudenda will battle for possession in midfield.
The final is set for Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola on Sunday.
VICTOR KUMWENDA, Lusaka