Monos take on Etoile Du Sahel

daniel_zokotoHARARE Zimbabwe soccer champions Monomotapa this afternoon lock horns with Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel, in a potentially bruising Group B opening encounter of the 2009 MTN CAF Champions League mini league stage at Rufaro Stadium. (Pictured: Monos Daniel Zokoto with ball)

Monos earned their place in the money-spinning phase after convincingly dumping out seasoned campaigners ASEC Mimosas of Cote dIvoire in a two-legged encounter last May. Rodwell Dhlakamas men, who have been mediocre on far too many occasions recently, will have to rise to the occasions if they are entertaining hopes of posting yet another upset victory today.

Some of their drab performances against much less tougher opponents in the Premiership have aroused skepticism even among their die-hard supporters on whether Monomotapa have what it takes to go all the way against highly in the continents premier club competition.

But one can only underestimate the Zimbabwean minnows at their own peril. Dhlakama and his charges have proved a more potent force when playing with their backs to the wall. Their heroics in the previous stages of the competition are enough testimony to assure their followers that their boys can match anyone on the soccer field.

The Tunisians risk being humiliated by yet another Zimbabwean side for the second year running, after they were unceremoniously booted out of the continental championship by Dynamos last year. The worst mistake that Etoile can make is taking time to look at Monozs current record in the local Premiership.

In African Champions League Dhlakama and his charges have proved that they are lethal at home. In the previous rounds they appeared mere minnows against their opponents when playing away only to surprise them with a stunning performance at home.

In their hugely successful maiden campaign on the African Safari so far Monomotapa have won at Rufaro against Miembeni of Tanzania, with a 2-0 score line, South Africas Ajax Cape Town (2-1) and ASEC Mimosas (2-0).

With such a good home record, a win today will be what Monomotapa needs to kick-start their campaign for a place in the quarterfinals. There is no doubt that Dhlakamas men are well drilled for their high-profile showdown against Etoile du Sahel. The Zimbabwean champions played two friendly matches in the Far East against the Malaysian national side.

Although the trip has generated a lot of controversy, there is no denying that the experience gained by the players could play a decisive role in todays encounter.
The Zimbabweans are in the process of registering four more players in addition to the 24 they submitted to CAF last December.

Monos are hoping to have registered their new signing from CAPS United, big striker Tendai Gwata, and former Gunners defender Witness Nyamutsaka, Joseph Mutambiranwa and Matthew Rusike in time for their next assignment. Monos face Nigerias Heartland in their next Group B match away from home, on August 1.

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