BY HENRY MHARA
WARRIORS and Lyon striker Tino Kadewere (pictured), who is ineligible for the blockbuster UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg clash against Italian giants Juventus tonight, will watch from the sidelines as his teammates restart the journey to salvage a spot in next season’s premier European club competition by winning this season’s edition, which is the only route left for the French giants.
Lyon failed to make it among the UCL qualifiers from Ligue 1 after finishing seventh in a season that was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They can only make it to the next edition if they win this term’s edition and carry a 1-0 lead into the second leg against a star-studded Juventus side that recently celebrated another league title and have their eyes firmly fixed on the UCL silverware that has evaded them over the last few years.
Kadewere’s dream of playing in the best club competition in the world will depend on his teammates’ performance.
He did not make the trip to Turin and will be rooting for the team from his base in France.
The match kicks off at 9pm Zimbabwean time. Tonight’s other UEFA Champions League match will see Real Madrid travel to Manchester City.
Lyonnais coach Rudi Garcia named a 24-man squad for the trip yesterday with Kadewere not included. It has since emerged that the former Harare City player, who signed for the club in July last year and was loaned back to Le Havre, is not registered for the competition.
The 24-year-old was an unused substitute for Lyon in the Coupe de la Ligue cup final last week against Neymar’s PSG, which Garcia’s team lost on penalties.
Most Zimbabwean football followers were hoping to see the Warriors star making the team against Juventus.
However, French football website Topmercato.com reported that Kadewere was ineligible despite the club’s earlier assertion that the forward would be available for the competition.
“For this trip, Rudi Garcia flew with a group of 24 players on Thursday. A group marked by the presence of all senior players, including that of Memphis Depay, who would never have been able to play this match if it had been played on its initial date. Note that Tino Kadewere, who arrived this summer from Le Havre, is not qualified to play in the Champions League. He is, therefore, absent,” reported the website.
Lyon, as Lyonnais are popularly known, are aiming for a place in the quarterfinals.
They have one leg in the next stage after a surprise 1-0 win at home, thanks to a goal from Lucas Tousart who has since left the club.
The Rhone club has received a tremendous boost with the availability of the team’s talisman Depay who has recovered from a knee injury.
In the event that they upset the Old Lady again, as Juventus are affectionately known, Lyon will meet either Real Madrid or Manchester City in the quarterfinals.
Garcia knows his side is facing a huge task to repeat their first leg heroics, but he is fancying the team’s chances of progression.
“Given the opponents we are facing, it’s 50-50,” Garcia told the media yesterday.
“What is certain is that we will not be content to defend this goal. Everything will have to be done to score at Juventus. We know that if we score, they will have to score three times.
It will be necessary to be intelligent during the course of the match: not to panic if we concede a goal, not to think that it is done when we score.”
The home side will be looking to superstar Ronaldo to step up yet again to turn the tie in Juventus’ favour.
The Portuguese has often turned out as the team’s benefactor in times of crisis such as these.
He on several occasions has pulled his side from depths of despair, including scoring a hat-trick last season to produce a turnaround against Atletico Madrid.
The team’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is hoping for the former Real Madrid ace to deliver once again.
“I see a team ready, there is an environment similar to last year before the match against Atletico Madrid,” Szczesny told Tuttosport yesterday.
“We can do it again this year. A Ronaldo hat-trick again? Nobody in the world has doubts that Cristiano can do it again. As usual, at the decisive times he makes the difference, he is ready to perform another miracle. We are playing for an important goal, finding the motivation is not difficult, we are all concentrated.”