TP Mazembe Disown Favourites Tag in CAF Confederation Cup Final
TP Mazembe coach Hubert Velud does not accept that his Democratic Republic of Congo outfit are favourites to beat Algerian club Mouloudia Bejaia in the CAF Confederation Cup final.
The first leg of a classic David-versus-Goliath showdown is set for Stade Mustapha Tchaker in Blida Saturday with the return match eight days later at Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi.
France-born Velud is adamant that Mazembe winning nine CAF titles and Bejaia competing in Africa for the first time this year will have no impact on the destiny of the trophy.
His belief is based on two tight tussles between the clubs at the group stage with the first ending goalless and Mazembe winning 1-0 at home through a Rainford Kalaba goal.
"The final is a 50-50 affair," the coach who has previous experience with several top-flight Algerian clubs told the Congolese media.
"Mouloudia have proved their worth and I am not surprised that they qualified for the Confederation Cup final.
"Having worked at several Algerian clubs as a coach, I know the mentality of the players extremely well.
"While some Algerian footballers may lack a little in talent, they more than compensate for that with incredible fighting spirit.
"Bejaia have been written off regularly during this competition and now they are in the final," said the 57-year-old former goalkeeper.
"On our side, there is a need for better finishing. We created many scoring chances during the two legs of the semi-final against Tunisian club Etoile Sahel yet scored only one goal."
Mazembe, whose nine CAF triumphs include five in the elite Champions League, boast the most multi-national club side in Africa with stars from DR Congo, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Zambia.
Among those stars is Zambia dribbling wizard, captain and winger Kalaba.
He has netted six times in the Confederation Cup this season, making him joint leading scorer with Arsenio 'Love' Cabungula, whose Angolan club were eliminated in the play-offs.
Congolese pair Jonathan Bolingi and Merveille Bope, who boast five CAF goals between them, are others who will require close policing from a mean Bejaia defence.
Bejaia coach and former Algeria defender Nacer Sandjak says he is happier facing 2013 runners-up Mazembe than 2015 title-holders Etoile Sahel in the final.
"If I had to choose between the two teams, I would have opted for the Congolese because the Tunisians are very difficult to handle," he told the Algerian media.
"When we meet Mazembe this time, we will not be taking a leap into the unknown. We know our opponents quite well now.
"They are a strong side with very athletic individuals, but we think we have the right formula to beat them."
Bejaia rely more than Mazembe on home-based footballers, but Malian defender Soumaila Sidibe and France-born Chad international Morgan Betorangal are possible starters.
Betorangal has been nominated for the 2016 Africa-based Footballer of the Year award helped, no doubt, by a brilliant long-range goal in a key group game against Medeama of Ghana.