Sunday, October 9
*Vipers (Uganda) Vs TP Mazembe (DR Congo) – 4pm
Uganda’s continental representatives Vipers SC will be targeting for nothing but victory in their first leg of the second round of CAF Champions League preliminary round tie with DR Congo’s TP Mazembe.
Vipers, champions of Uganda, reached this stage after eliminating Central Africa Republic’s Olympic Real De Bangui with a 4-0 aggregate win.
But due to their higher CAF Club Ranking, TP Mazembe received a bye to this stage.
The tie against Bangui did not give the Venoms a real test because of their disorganization leading to the first leg, with the side hosting away in Congo, reaching the venue late in and in bunches and starting the match with about eight players!
But in TP Mazembe, Vipers face an African Powerhouse who have won the CAF Champions League five times.
“Our objective is clear, we want to qualify to the next round even though we are playing a difficult team in TP Mazembe,” Vipers coach Roberto Oliveira is quoted by the club website.
“But, as Vipers we trust our capacity and we have one strong team. I respect TP Mazembe but they will need to respect Vipers too.”
With the second leg due next week, winner over two legs qualify to the lucrative CAF Champions League group stages while the loser drop to the playoffs round of the CAF Confederation Cup.
“We want to win and we’re going to give it our life because the objective is to reach reach the Group stages,” Oliveira added.
“We have built this team for the champions league. It’s my club, we’re all together, it’s one big family.”
“My objective is to play well, have good ball possession and win so that we qualify.”
Vipers have had enormous preparations to reach the CAF Champions League groups, starting with marquee signings including Uganda Cranes winger Lumala Abdu, Defender Murushid Juuko, Midfielder Marvin Joseph Youngman, goalkeeper Alfred Macumu Mudekereza (Congo), strikers Abubaker Lawal (Nigeria) and Cromwell Rwothomio among others.
They played two international friendlies against Rayon Sport (Rwanda) and Young Africans (Tanzania), winning both of them.
But their first league match against Bright Stars at Kitende, ended goalless.
The Club have no major injury worry, but it’s expected that coach Oliveira will not be on the touchline once again due to documentations.
Vipers have been knocked out by teams like Enyimba, Platinum Stars, Al Hilal and Constantine etc on the Continent and will be hoping for better fortunes this time round.
TP Mazembe – An African Elite Fading?
Only Al Ahly (Egypt) have won the CAF Champions League (10) more times than TP Mazembe (5).
The DR Congo outfits are joint second with five alongside Zamalek while ES Tunis are on four.
But Mazembe’s last CAF triumph was in 2015 and since then, they have fluttered to deceive per their standards.
Last year, they failed to make it to the group stages after they were knocked out by Amazulu (South Africa) with a 1-1 aggregate (away goals rule), before dropping to CAF Confederation Cup.
And the previous season, they failed to go past the groups, coming third in a group that had Mamelodi Sundowns, Belouzidad and Al Hilal.
A couple of players, including Uganda Cranes’ Joseph Ochaya, have left the club.
They will be without four key players Phillipe Kinzumbi, Christian Kouame and Zambian duo of Tandi Mwape and Kabaso Chongo.
The quartet are serving CAF Bans after last season’s scuffle in their CAF Confederation Cup semifinal against Berkane.
Three players Chongo, Kouame and Kizumbi were issued with reds by referee Maguette Ndiaye while Mwape is on two yellows and will be the only one to return for the second leg.
The other big worry is that this will be TP Mazembe’s first game of the season, with their league starting on October 19.
They arrived in Uganda this week with a contingent of 33 members including 25 players aboard a chartered plane by the club president Moise Katumbi and are residing at Sheraton Hotel.
Team coach Franck Dumas is French, and a former player for Monaco and Newcastle among other teams.
Dumas is confident that Mazembe will do enough to return to CAF Champions League groups.
He is quoted: “I saw their (Vipers) last game in the league. It’s in a stadium where there is atmosphere, it will be nice. We respect the opponent and we are not afraid of anyone. We call ourselves TPM with a duty to represent Congolese football and not to relive what we experienced last year even if things are different this year. We are here to do something good and leave Uganda peacefully.”
“In the preliminary round of this Champions League, there are more good teams than bad ones. Our opponents have a natural source of motivation when they meet us, there is over-motivation in front. All the teams want to beat us, it’s up to us not to let them do it.
“The best scenario is a good ending! Football is unpredictable, that’s what makes it so beautiful. We work to find our balance. We were punished harshly after the Berkane match, I would like it to be fair and balanced. There is Magloire NTAMBWE who had received a large stone in his hand. We have pointed this out to CAF officials who have the photos of this bloody hand, but no decision has been made.”