A bruised but recharged Zesco United return to Group C action on Sunday when they host El Hilal of Sudan on Sunday at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
The Zambian champions are back on the job 12 days after they lost 2-1 away to Ghana’s Asante Kotoko in Kumasi last week. That result saw Zesco suffer their first loss in the competition and also left the four teams in the group all square on three points. However, Zesco occupies top spot with Hilal, Kotoko and Nkana in that orer.
Ahead of the Hilal clash, Zesco coach George Lwandamina has said he is not getting any sleepless nights over the dead-heat ensuring on the first bend in Group C.
We have just played two games each with four remaining. If my mathematics serves me right, we have three points each and if the league was to end today, I am sure, Zesco would still be on top, Lwandamina said.
Zesco, though, should be recharged for the Day 3 test after enjoying their longest break between competitive matches so far in 2019 following a tight one month in which they have played nine games since January 13.
Moreover, the Ndola-based outfit are a different side at home where they are unbeaten in continental competition since 7 March 2018 when they lost 1-0 in a Total CAF Champions League pre-group stage, first leg match to ASEC Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire.
Since then, Zesco have rebooted in their bid to restore home pride collecting four draws and three victories at their favourite Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
Points at home will be critical for Zesco before heading to Khartoum to play Hilal in the reverse.
Staying the tale of recoveries, visitors Hilal face the unenviable task of rebounding from their first loss sustained in Zambia on February 13 down the road from Ndola in Kitwe at the hands of Nkana.
The Sudanese side has been camped in Zambia since that defeat to prepare for their back-to-back away Group C dates on the Copperbelt but that have not been short of some internal drama.
Coach Irad Zafouri was demoted just after the loss to Nkana and has been replaced by his Tunisian compatriot Nabil Al Kouki who returns for a third tenure.
Kouki jumps straight into the fire after joining the team at its Kitwe base on Tuesday, and Sunday will tell whether the first five days of training under the new boss have been worthwhile as they plot to avoid back-to-back Group C defeats in Zambia.
The match also presents Kouki with an opportunity to somewhat exorcise a personal Zambian ghost after Nkana denied his ex-Tunisian club CR Bizertin of a group stage place in the 2014 edition of the same competition.
Meanwhile, both sides will have some notable absentees with Zesco midfielder Kondwani Mtonga out after he was sent off against Kotoko while Hilal midfielder Emmanuel Chukwu Ariwa earned his second yellow card in Nkana tie.
But Hilal striker Idris Mbombo’s reunion continues when he faces his second of two Zambia ex-clubs after last weekend’s reunification with Nkana, whom he left last November for Sudan.
Nkana host Kotoko in the other Group C encounter also on Sunday in next door Kitwe.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football