Mokwena likens TP Mazembe's Caf struggles to Liverpool at Anfield


Rhulani Mokwena believes Saturday's Caf Champions League opponents, Tout Puissant Mazembe, would be in a better position in the competition's Group Stage were it not for the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Mazembe are winless in two outings, playing two out goalless draws against Belouizdad and Al Hilal Omdurman, leaving them four points behind Sundowns, who have won both their opening encounters.

Mokwena believes the Congolese giants, like Liverpool at Anfield, are a better and stronger team in front of their fans - who have not been able to access stadiums since the outbreak of the pandemic, globally.

''I think it's a little bit of an abnormal season, globally, where the big clubs lose that effect of the 12th man because of Covid and many other things, that restrict Mazembe in particular, because of the hostility that is created when everyone is here, it is a daunting environment,'' Mokwena told the media in a press conference.

''And if you look at the profile of the games that Mazembe have played, they lose that, for example, when they played them [matches] here. The profile of the team is a very aggressive team that wants to play to score and win the game.

''But you see a little bit of energy lacking because normally that energy is provided by the supporters, they give that extra push.

''And under normal circumstances, the game against Belouizdad doesn't end in a draw, they go on to win because of that extra push from the supporters.

''A very good case to point is Liverpool.

''Liverpool before Covid would amass almost two points per match at Anfield, but after Covid, Liverpool get 1.2 or 1-3 points per match at Anfield.

''So really, in all honesty, for the big clubs, they lose out, and at times, it feels as if the playing fields are a little bit more level.

''So, the mentality, the tactics - because at the end of the day it's 11 vs 11, it's not as daunting as it normally would be.''

Despite their struggles, Mokwena refused to underestimate Les Corbeaux and is wary of their quality.

On what to expect from Mazembe in Lubumbashi, Mokwena said: 'Last time we played them [Mazembe], we beat them in the Super Cup final, we hosted them in Pretoria.

"But of course, completely different profile, different coach, and almost a new squad except for a couple of senior experienced players like Reindford Kalaba still remain.

''But a very, very good team. One of the biggest on the African continent with a clear playing profile.

‘’Some very important players and some very good players,  [Thomas] Ulimwengu the 28, quick strong top-goal scorer, very impressive with good physicality.

''[Joseph] Ochaya also important for them, [he's] very good movement to overlap and get forward.

''[Moustapha] Kouyate also important, can play as right-wing and can play as a striker, deadly. Good movements and dominant in the air also to create second ball situations for Mazembe, particularly for the wingers to run behind.

''But they are very strong with good defense.  [Tandi] Mwape and [Kabaso] Chongo are their two preferred centre-back pairing.

"Zambians with very good experience and ability to control the defensive line whether to hold a high-line or defend a little bit deeper.

''So, we've watched the team and they can cause you a lot of problems with transitions because of the speed that they have, the counterattack is quick and deadly.

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''And also, they have set pieces that they can trouble you with, and then, of course, it's the individual brilliance of the players.

''But generally, a very good team, well-coached with good skills.''

The Brazilians sit on top of Group B with six points and can guarantee themselves a place in the quarter-finals if they beat the Mihayo Kazembe-coached side.