For coach Callisto Pasuwa, Barbourfields Stadium in downtown Bulawayo, Zimbabwe evokes fond memories of his playing days when he used to mesmerise football fans with his midfield artistry while playing for Dynamos.
But this afternoon, the home fans will turn against their own as the former Warriors midfielder lead Malawi champions Nyasa Big Bullets in their CAF Champions League first-round second leg tie against hosts FC Platinum.
This is Pasuwa’s second campaign in the continental tournament with Bullets.
His first attempt, in the 2018 edition, was halted by Kenyan giants Gor Mahia at the same stage.
After a goalless draw in the first-leg at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre two weeks ago, the return leg is like a second-half.
Both sides have relatively equal chances of making it to the next round to face either UD Songo of Mozambique or Simba SC of Tanzania.
Platinum will, of course, enjoy home-ground advantage, playing in front of their supporters who are expected to throng Barbourfields this afternoon.
But playing at home also comes with pressure on the hosts while Bullets have nothing to lose.
For Platinum, an outright victory will guarantee them a place in the next stage of the competition. A goalless draw after extra time, will see the match go into penalties.
For Bullets on the other hand, any goals draw is enough for them to proceed on away goals rule.
Getting it right away from home is no kid’s play, especially after a long road trip covering over 1 000 kilometres to Bulawayo with a stopover in Harare.
But Pasuwa is confident that his side is ready for the challenge.
“It will be a tough match, but we have done our home-work. We need to score away goals so as to put pressure on them,” said the tactician.
Bullets attacking machinery has a mammoth task to ensure they retain some sense of composure when in front of goal.
Strikers Hassan Kajoke, Patrick Phiri and versatile winger Peter Banda need to have some patience—something the trio lacked in the first-leg—if they are to score.
However, while there will be no reason to play a defending game, Bullets need to be wary at the back, where they have inexperienced players such as Nixon Nyasulu and Charles Petro while full-backs Precious Sambani and Gomezgani Chirwa need to balance between overlapping and defending to avoid being caught off guard in counter-attacks.
Having played a closed game in the first-leg, Platinum have no reason to be coy at home. They are expected to attack all the way.
The Zvishavane-based platinum miners have also mastered the art of grinding results when least expected. They will, however, be without three key players—Tawana Chikore, Evidence Tendai and reigning Soccer Star of the Year Rodwell Chinyengetere—who also were last-minute withdrawals in the first-leg.
“I think there was a miscommunication between CAF, ourselves and Zifa on the registration of the said players. So, even for the second-leg they are not available,” said FC Platinum media and liaison officer Chido Chizondo.
While coach Norman ‘Nomara’ Mapeza admits that with the majority of the players new in his squad, his main challenge is for them to gel.
“We have a lot of new faces and still trying new combinations,” the coach told The Herald of Zimbabwe.
Though Platinum suffered a morale clashing 2-0 league defeat to Triangle FC last weekend, Mapeza remained optimistic.
“Nothing changes we play our game with the same desire and hunger to win,” he said.