FC Platinum have put on a brave face as they confront one of the continent’s super powers and current Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League cup holders Esperance Tunis in a Group B clash of the same competition in Tunisia on Friday.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA
The Stade Olympique de Rades has never been a good hunting ground for Zimbabwean sides and, in fact, records by local teams there would make the FC Platinum supporters nervous.
That stadium is where Dynamos suffered a humiliating 6-0 defeat at the hands of Esperance in 2012 and before that in 2010, they lost 1-0.
Highlanders also suffered a 6-0 mauling by the three-time Caf Champions League champions and FC Platinum’s main mission is to go there and fight hard for a draw.
The 60 000 capacity facility can be a real cauldron with drum-beating supporters who sing from start to finish, never mind the situation on the playing park.
FC Platinum players will come across an atmosphere most of them would have never come across in their playing careers.
This is the big job that coach Norman Mapeza has got at hand as he tries to psyche his players for such a grand occasion.
Esperance are always at their best when they are playing in front of their home fans.
Last year, en route to winning the competition, they only suffered defeat at home once when they lost to Al Ahly in the group stages.
The two teams went on to make it all the way to the finals, where Esperance produced a sizzling second leg performance to overturn a first leg 3-1 defeat, winning 3-0 to claim their third silverware of this competition.
With Esperance having drawn their first group match against Horoya on Friday, they will be looking for a win at home to give themselves a better chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
FC Platinum would have to brace for a barrage of attacks from the home side under the bright lights of the Stade Olympique de Rades.
Mapeza has been frank about the way he will set out his team in Tunisia.
“We need to go there with a game plan and at least get a point or better away from home,” he said.
“The game plan we used when we played in the initial stages is the same game plan we are going to use when we go to Tunisia.”
In the preliminary round and the first round ties, FC Platinum preferred to shut out their opponents away from home while playing an open game at home.
Mapeza’s side is one of the masters at defensive play as evidenced by their numbers from last season, where they conceded just 16 goals from 38 matches.
But Mapeza knows that the challenge is bigger than what his players faced locally.
“We know they are dangerous because they are the current champion’s league holders, but we are just not going there to open up the game for them,” he said.
“Our plan remains the same. I know what to expect when we go to Tunisia because I once played there with the national team and that experience will be key.”
FC Platinum can draw confidence from other teams that have gone to Tunis and came out with results in the past.
In 2017, South African football giants Sundowns managed a goalless draw away to Tunis.
Even that 1-0 defeat of Dynamos in 2010 may be enough to give FC Platinum confidence that they can go there and compete.