By Wellington Toni
SOUTH African football giants Orlando Pirates are expected in Bulawayo on Wednesday to face FC Platinum in a Total Caf Champions League Group B match at Barbourfields on Saturday.
It has been a busy four days for the Bucs as they played Highlands Park in an Absa Premiership match on Saturday and on Tuesday night, they face Chippa United in another match before making the trip to Bulawayo.
As a result, they have lost two of their players for the Platinum match with Ben Motshwari and Abubaker Moraka both ruled out for the Bulawayo trip.
Pirates, who could feature two Zimbabweans in Kuda Mahachi and Marshall Munetsi, are seeking safe passage into the last four from a group that features defending champions Esperance of Tunisia and Horoya of Guinea.
Coached by the experience Milutin Sjredovic, the 1995 Champions League and Africa Super Cup winners, will be basically be home as they command a huge support base in Bulawayo.
Their coach has expressed huge admiration for FCP coach Norman Mapeza’s achievements in the last two years as he has won back to back Castle Lager Premiership titles, but still believes they are greenhorns in this stage of the competition.
Meanwhile, FC Platinum welcome back defender Kelvin Moyo after the Warriors man missed their last three matches due to injury.
Platinum, barred from using Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane due to the some technical inadequacies, arrived in Bulawayo on Tuesday to step up their preparations.
Mandava was condemned by Caf as it failed a floodlights test and their broadcasting and media centre was found wanting.
Nevertheless, they expect to do well and get maximum points against a tried and tested side while they are making their debut in the group stages of the Champions League.
They have lost Soccer Star of Year Rodwell Chinyengetere to Baroka of SA and midfield anchor Winston Mhango to Kabwe Warriors of Zambia.
But they have adequate cover in Farai Madhananga, Devon Chafa and Kelvin Madzongwe while Lameck Nhamo has fitted in very well in coach Norman Mapeza’s style of play since moving from Triangle.
Gate charges for the match have been fixed at $5 for the rest of the ground, $10 for the western stands and $15 for the VIP.
Platinum are expected to bus over 500 of their fans for the match.