MULWANDA LUPIYA, Ndola
ZESCO United’s impressive home record in continental competitions faces scrutiny today when they face Egyptian side Smouha in the Confederation Cup group stage match at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
Zesco have not lost at home since making their debut on the continent in 2006.
But the Ndola side faces Smouha at a time when they are struggling in the league.
Since beating Nakambala Leopards 1-0 in a Super Division rescheduled Week Two match in Mazabuka on April 26, Zesco have picked two points from a possible nine in the last three matches.
Zesco drew 2-2 apiece with Nkana and Green Buffaloes and lost 1-0 to Napsa Stars.
“Smouha are favourites because Egyptian football for me is at a very high level. The game will be tough because we played on Wednesday in the league [2-2 draw with Green Buffaloes]. We always go to win but with opponents like Smouha anything except defeat is good.
“I know this team, I played with Smouha two years ago with TP Mazembe both in Alexandria and Lubumbashi. I have big respect for this team,” Zesco coach Zlatko Krmpotic said at a briefing in Ndola yesterday.
He expects the 11 players that will make the starting line-up to put their act together.
Jesse Were and Idris Mbombo will lead the attack as Zesco seek a good take-off in Group C.
Were has two goals in the competition and will be looking forward to adding to his tally while Mbombo will target opening his account.
Mbombo netted five times last year as Zesco reached the CAF Champions League semi-finals.
Jackson Mwanza, Lazarus Kambole and Patrick Kongolo are other options for goals.
Mwanza and Kongolo have found the target once apiece in the competition.
John Ching’andu, who has hit the net twice in the Confederation Cup, will be dictating play on the left wing while Dave Daka will be on the opposite flank.
Kondwani Mtonga and Anthony Akumu will shield the defence.
Simon Silwimba, Fackson Kapumbu, Ben Banh and David Odhiambo, who has scored twice in the competition, will be given the responsibility of keeping Smouha strikers at bay.
Skipper Jacob Banda will be in goal.
“The team is well prepared. This time we are looking at reaching far in the competition having played in the Champions League semi-finals. I think we have the experience enough to advance. We are ready and the rest of the job will be done on the pitch,” Banda said.
On the other hand, Smouha are without the services of five players due to injuries.
The five are defenders Omar Saad, Yasser Ibrahim and Mansou Kouakou and midfielders Ahmed Temsah and Mahmoud Sayed.
Despite the setback, Smouha coach Momen Soliman is confident of getting a desired result.
“We respect them too much and we know that we are facing a very good team who play modern football and they are quick on the other hand. We play modern football as well and we have talented boys but the only problem is that we have no experience. We are waiting for the game and we are in good shape,” Soliman said.
Soliman has match winners in strikers Ahmad Hassan Mekki, Ahmed Raouf and Banou Diawara to halt Zesco’s unbeaten home run.
To reach the group stage, Smouha edged South African side Bidvest Wits 1-0 on aggregate.
In another group match, Angola’s Recreativo Desportivo host Sudanese outfit Al Hilal El Obied.