STEPHEN PHIRI, Lusaka
ZANACO stand on the cusp of either qualification or capitulation as they face Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca in the last CAF Champions League Group D
encounter in Casablanca tonight.
So thin is the difference between success and failure as a draw would see them through to the quarter-finals while defeat would spell doom to the Zambian champions.
Should Zanaco lose and Al Ahly fail to beat Coton Sport of Cameroon, Mumamba Numba’s boys will still progress to the quarter-finals of the prestigious competition.
This is the situation Zanaco have found themselves in when they stroll on the pitch at Stade Mohamed V in Morocco.
Zanaco lead Group D with 11 points, two better than Wydad while Al Ahly have eight points. Coton are winless in five matches.
This is the first time Zanaco have reached the group stage of Africa’s premier club competition and they are eager to qualify to the last eight.
Zanaco made their debut in the prestigious championship in 2003 and their best run was reaching the second round in 2010 and dropped to the Confederation Cup, where they reached the group stage.
The Bankers know what is at stake and will not allow Wydad to spoil the party. They could have wrapped up qualification to the quarter-finals last Saturday but they settled for a goalless draw with Al Ahly in Lusaka making tonight’s match crucial.
Numba said Zanaco are in Casablanca to eliminate Wydad.
He is aware of Wydad’s impressive home record but has put up a brave face that his charges will stun the hosts.
Wydad beat Al Ahly and Coton 2-0 apiece at home. The Moroccans also beat Zesco 2-0 in a group stage match last year.
“We are not intimidated with the fact that Wydad is a difficult team to beat at their home ground. If that is the case, then we have no choice but to break their record,” Numba said in Lusaka before departure for Casablanca.
He is expected to use a cautious approach.
He will restore skipper Ziyo Tembo in defence after missing the Al Ahly match due to suspension.
Tembo will partner George Chilufya in central defence while Taonga Bwembya and Chongo Chirwa will be on the right and left wings, respectively.
Numba is expected to be tight in midfield unleashing Richard Kasonde and Diddy Mpiana in a holding role while Ernest Mbewe and Augustine Mulenga will be pushing.
He will keep his faith in Felix Nyaende and Saith Sakala to lead the attack.
Sakala netted in the 1-0 win over Coton in Garoua on June 21.
But Wydad will utilise their home ground advantage to the fullest.
They will attack from the first whistle and Zanaco must expect a tough match.
Achraf Bencherki, Naim Aarab, Fabrice Ondama, Walid El Karti, William Jebor and Amine Attouchi hold the key for Wydad’s success.
So far, champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, Tunisian sides Esperance and Etoile du Sahel have qualified for the quarter-finals.
Ferroviario Beira of Mozambique also advanced to the last eight following the FIFA’s suspension of the Sudan Football Association.
Ferroviario were supposed to face Al Hilal yesterday.