SUPERSPORT UNITED head into their maiden CAF Confederation Cup final on the back of less-than-ideal preparations, with TP Mazembe also affected in the build up to Sunday’s showdown.
The two clubs meet in Lubumbashi on Sunday afternoon in the first leg of the continent’s second-tier club cup final, yet both are sweating over the availability and readiness of numerous key members of their squad.
The timing of this weekend’s final following the FIFA international break has wreaked havoc for both coaches, with neither able to plan accordingly while awaiting the return of their stars.
SuperSport coach Eric Tinkler has had to ready his squad this week without his key Bafana Bafana quintet, with captain Dean Furman, goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, defenders Morgan Gould and Clayton Daniels, and striker Bradley Grobler all involved in national team duty with South Africa in their unsuccessful attempt at World Cup qualification.
The five players arrived back from Senegal on Thursday, and will at most have two training sessions with their club teammates ahead of Sunday’s big final.
Likewise though, TP Mazembe has also been affected in their preparations, losing five players to international fixtures over the past weekend.
Mali striker Adama Traore, who has featured in eight of the club’s 12 matches in the Confederation Cup so far this campaign, was involved in international duty, starting the game in his country’s goalless World Cup qualifier against Gabon on Saturday as they finished bottom of Group C.
Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo, who has played in seven continental games this season for his club, was likewise a starter in his county’s must-win World Cup qualifier against Morocco, letting in two goals as The Elephants succumbed 2-0 to miss out on a trip to Russia next year.
DR Congo trio Kevin Mondeko, Djos Issma and Ley Mtampi were all part of their national team squad that earned a 3-1 World Cup qualifying victory against Guinea, with the latter two starting the match as DRC missed top spot – and World Cup qualification – by one point.
It must be noted that the five players absent on international duty for Mazembe all played their fixtures on Saturday, as opposed to Bafana’s encounter on Tuesday night – and Brockie’s New Zealand clash on Thursday morning, South African time – meaning Matsatsantsa received the wrong end of the stick in that regard.
But Mazembe may also find themselves lacking match fitness, having only kicked off their new season’s league campaign on Monday following administrative issues in the country delaying the start of the new season. They have thus played just five competitive fixtures since mid-July – over the same period, SuperSport have played 15 games, collecting a MTN8 trophy in the process.
Despite preparing without key squad members in the build up to such an important game this week, Tinkler has admitted there’s nothing that can be done, but will surely be concerned that fatigue, injury and jet-lag don’t cost his team dearly in one of the biggest games in the Pretoria club’s history.
Meanwhile, should Matsatsantsa win the Cup, they’re guaranteed pocketing around R9 million.
Good luck the pride of SA, bring it home!