Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
EXACTLY a week before Zimbabwe champions CAPS United plunge into battle in their maiden CAF Champions League group stage adventure, coach Lloyd Chitembwe is maintaining a calm attitude ahead of a marathon season.
Makepekepe play Zamalek in their opening match away at the Borg El-Arab stadium in Alexandria next Friday to kick-start a hectic programme that will see them play continental games almost non-stop through to next month.
The intensity of the schedule looks daunting given they will need to shuttle to North Africa and back for ties against Group B opponents who include Al Ahli Tripoli of Libya and Algeria’s USM Alger.
Chitembwe yesterday said he will give his players a break this weekend to recharge their batteries before regrouping on Monday ahead of departure next week.
The Green Machine were supposed to warm up for this big match against the five-time African champions Zamalek with a Harare Derby encounter against local giants Dynamos on Sunday but the match has been called off.
The former midfielder believes his charges are ready for a gruelling season which could see them play close to 60 competitive matches at home and abroad.
“We prepared for the season and that’s exactly how we are taking it,” said Chitembwe.
“Of course, the schedule will be intense but we have to play those games. We knew that we were going to play them, so we have done our best in terms of preparation.”
Makepekepe will play Zamalek next Friday and then return home to host USM Alger during midweek on May 23-24.
They will be at home again for their next match against Ahli Tripoli on the weekend of June 2-4 with the return fixtures falling during the middle of the week again on June 20-21.
Chitembwe appears to have knit together a competitive unit following the heroic performances when they knocked out former champions TP Mazembe of the DRC.
But their first match against Zamalek in the mini-league could be a good test to their strength in Africa.
CAPS United’s finishing has been under scrutiny but after that goal harvest in the 4-0 thrashing of Chapungu last week, the Harare giants could have given themselves solid ground to believe.
Moreover, they have beefed up their strike-force with the addition of veteran Leonard Tsipa who missed the preliminary round matches.
They are also eyeing Nigerian striker Abasirim Chidiebere, Ghanaians Richard Addai and Wilson Andoh.
The trio are due to be assessed by Chitembwe before they could put pen to paper.
While CAPS United are still early in a season that promises success, their opponents Zamalek are close to wrapping up a rather disappointing campaign.
The Egyptian giants, who were runners-up in last year’s Champions League race, have since fallen by the way side in the title race back home as they trail log leaders Al Ahly by 20 points with three rounds of play remaining.
Zamalek have not won a game in their last three matches after losing 1-0 to Al Masry before featuring in identical goalless draws against Tanta and Ismaily.
This has put pressure on new Portuguese coach Augusto Inacio.
“We are not looking much at how they are doing. Instead we are focusing on ourselves and how best we should apply ourselves,” said Chitembwe.