WARRIORS star Tino Kadewere is expected to make his official debut for Olympique Lyonnais when the club meets Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue at the Stade de France tomorrow night.
BY HENRY MHARA
The 24-year-old striker joined the French Ligue 1 side in January this year on a four-year contract, but was loaned back to former club Le Havre in the second division for the rest of the 2019/20 campaign.
He was officially unveiled by the French giants in June, and immediately started training with his new teammates in preparation for two crucial end of the campaign matches.After their clash with PSG, Lyon — as Olympique Lyonnais is popularly known — will also face European giants Juventus in a Uefa Champions League match on Friday next week.
Kadewere has featured for the club in friendly matches as they built up to the blockbuster clashes, and is expected to make his official bow for the club tomorrow.He took part in three of the five preparatory matches that Lyon played, scoring four goals as they beat Swiss lower tier club Port Valais 12-0 in the first game.
The former Harare City star didn’t start the subsequent matches as he played second fiddle to Moussa Dembélé and former Villarreal man Toko Ekambi.He was a half-time substitute in the 2-0 win against Rangers of Scotland on July 16 before missing the game against Celtic two days later, a match that Lyon lost 2-0.
On Wednesday last week, Kadewere was introduced with 13 minutes remaining in their 3-2 win over Belgian side Gent.He then missed the final friendly game against another Belgian side, Royal Antwerp last Friday which the French side again won 3-2.
His omission from the final preparatory match could be a hint that the former Prince Edward High School student is likely to start from the bench against a star-studded PSG squad led by the mercurial Neymar Jnr.
Lyon coach Rudi Garcia used a 3-5-2 formation in all the friendly matches that they played and it is highly likely that he will choose his skipper Memphis Depay and Dembélé as the two men to start upfront for this match.
A former Manchester United player, Depay is the leader of the team and is revered not only in Lyon, but nationally, while Dembélé is the team’s number one striker.
But the two men are both linked with moves away from the club in the next transfer window, and this could bring a window of opportunity for Kadewere to get a slot in the starting line-up next season.
But before he could think of next season, Kadewere will be looking to make a big impression if given a chance tomorrow, an opportunity which he is almost certain to get after his big money move from Le Havre.
Lyon are reported to have shelled over US$15 million to sign the highly-rated Warriors striker.He will become the first Zimbabwean to play in the Coupe de la Ligue final.
Tomorrow’s final will sadly be the last in the competition’s history.
The final was initially set for April 4, but was postponed due to the coronavirus.Sharing the pitch with a galaxy of PSG stars including Neymar Jnr, Ángel di María, Ander Herrera and Brazil skipper Thiago Silva will be a big step in Kadewere’s blossoming career.
Another superstar Kylian Mbappé will miss the match for PSG due to an injury he picked in the 1-0 win over Etienne in the final of the Coupe de France last week.
Kadewere and Lyon will hope to win the match, which they are also using as preparation for their titanic Uefa Champions League round of 16 clash against Christiano Ronaldo’s Juventus on Friday next week in Turin.
The French side has a 1-0 advantage from the first leg that was played in Paris.