Former winners Kilimanjaro Stars of Tanzania get down to business in pursuit of fourth title as they encounter invitees Zambia in a Group B match of the Senior Challenge Cup at the Machakos Stadium this afternoon.
Head coach Kim Poulsen says his boys are upbeat for the clash and fans back in Tanzania should expect victory from the team that trained for less than a fortnight before boarding a flight to Nairobi.
However, victory will be hard fought as Stars face the highest ranked team in the tournament comprising 12 teams, including hosts Kenya and record 23 times winners, Uganda the Cranes.
Kili Stars are expected to meet the group’s weakest but unpredictable side Somalia on Sunday ahead of their final preliminary tie versus Burundi.
Tanzania will be without their top strikers Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu who will delay to return to Nairobi at the weekend after returning to Lubumbashi, the Democratic Republic of Congo to play for their club TP Mazembe, in the return leg final of thr Confederation Cup against Tunisian side CS Sfaxien. Mlisho Ngassa and Maguri will start upfront for the Tanzanians.
The last time Kilimanjaro Stars played against Zambia in the Challenge Cup was during the 2010 edition at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam where they home side flopped to concede two easy goals.
However, the team progressed to the final after the first hurdle failure to win their third Challenge Cup title since 1974.
New Zambia Coach Patrice Beaumelle heads into this group opener against a backdrop of three successive defeats to Brazil, Jordan and Egypt in international friendly matches.
However, the Frenchman would be hoping for an improved performance from his locally assembled side in the CECAFA championship to save his face.
Much as the CECAFA tournament has been considered a developmental programme, a win and overall good performance might ease some pressure on the Zambian side that has played relatively well, but ended up on the losing side.
Pressure in that Beaumelle is faced with the huge task of preserving a 39-year-old unbeaten opening round record at the CECAFA Cup against the Kilimanjaro Stars.
Beaumelle would be hoping that the team that comprises players from the award-winning COSAFA Senior Challenge Cup in August and also played in the three friendly matches, would bring their recently gained experience to the CECAFA.
Zambia last won the CECAFA in 2006 under coach Patrick Phiri in a final that ended 11-10 on penalties following a goalless draw in Ethiopia, though the trophy was given to runners-up Sudan because the Chipolopolo appeared as a guest team.
In goal, Beaumelle has the daunting task of either giving Nchanga Rangers netminder, Toaster Nsabata his international debut or stick to Joshua Titima who has shown some inconsistencies of late especially in the league.
The pair of Bronson Chama and Christopher Munthali should marshal the defence to provide cover to the goalkeeper, with Kabaso Chongo and Jimmy Chisenga expected to start on the flanks.
Beaumelle would be hoping fit-again Khondwani Mtonga should engineer the midfield together with Mathews Nkowane, Felix Katongo and Sydney Kalume to provide the much-needed balls upfront and also stop the Tanzanians from enjoying possession in midfield.
In attack Beaumelle is spoilt for choice as he has the 2013 league striking pair of top scorer Reynold ‘Sate Sate’ Kampamba and Festus Mbewe or the Nchanga Rangers duo of Alex Ng’onga and Bornwell Mwape.
The other option would be for the coach to try partnering Kampamba and Mwape as the two might just do the trick to score those needed goals specially that the Rangers striker put up a good show during the Barclays Cup final against Red Arrows.
Arrows have provided their play-marker Stanley Nshimbi, an equally skilful frontliner to add the fire power upfront.