23 May 2017

Zimbabwe/Algeria: 'Caps Aren't Easy Prey'

USM Alger coach Paul Put says the Algerian giants have devoted ample time to studying CAPS United and have a comprehensive game plan to contain the Zimbabweans in a CAF Champions League Group B showdown at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow. The Belgian gaffer yesterday said he watched Makepekepe's opening group match against Zamalek and believes his men should brace for a tough battle.

Although the Green Machine lost 0-2 in Egypt, the Belgian national described CAPS United as a good side who can use their home ground factor to their advantage.

The vastly-experienced coach, who has 10 years coaching national teams in Africa which include Burkina Faso and The Gambia, knows the continent very well.

After all, he was in charge of Burkina Faso when they reached the final of the 2013 CAF Champions League. A strong contingent of 45 people, including 20 players, 10 members of the technical team, 10 journalists and other club officials arrived in the early hours of yesterday on a chartered flight.

But after some rest at a local five-star hotel, the team later had a workout at Gateway Primary School.

The Belgian, a very warm and engaging character, said he was excited to be in Harare having been in South Africa for the AFCON tournament and jokingly said he would love to know Zimbabweans better, maybe even coaching the national team or getting a woman here who is unattached.

After that practice match in which the Algerian team displayed short quick passes, the mentor said they are cautious of CAPS United. The North Africans had their men on the ground in Alexandria closely following the proceedings when CAPS United played Zamalek.

"If we have to play an away game, it is always difficult. I can say I know African players, so it will be a tough game.

"CAPS United playing Zamalek, they played so well, so it would be a tough game," he said. The gaffer said despite getting off the Champions' League group stage on a flyer following their comprehensive 3-0 victory against Al Ahli Tripoli of Libya, it would be a different battle at the National Sports Stadium.

"An away game and a home game is always different.

"CAPS United have good players. So we know it would be difficult to play CAPS United (at their home). There is pressure from the public then the pressure from the home team. An away game the brains have to work and if the brains have to work harder, you cannot perform.

"It is still a long way to go. We have just started and the most difficult thing is to get confirmation (semi-finals candidates)," said Put.

However, the well-travelled coach, who has also seen duty with the Jordan national team, is in his first assignment at club level with an African team after he joined the Algerian team last November and believes he can use his experience for his club's advantage.

"After 10 years of national teams' experience, it's different coaching a club but in Belgium I once coached a club in the First Division. I played Europa football so, before I became a coach, I was a player.

"You have to be smart, clever, see how the game starts, their intention, and see how you manage it. It will be hard and we will see how we can handle the game," said Put. He said he was not reading much into history of his team which reached the 2015 CAF Champions League final before falling to TP Mazembe, the very team CAPS ousted to reach the group stages of the tournament.

"The team which played in the final in 2015 is not the same team. The team has been changing and we have been buying a lot of young players, who are also inexperienced.

"But in football it is about winning and taking the points (and not history)," he said.

On which teams he was tipping to proceed from Group B, Put said:

"Normally, one would tip Zamalek, they have lots of experience but CAPS United have quality and Al Ahli have good quality too. But it is a tough pool so it would be difficult. But, of course, we would want to progress. Our team has good organisation, they have an ambitious president and everything a coach would wish for," he said.

Back home things have not been rosy for the Reds and Blacks as the club is fondly known, with hopes of winning the league very slim this season.

They are fourth on the table, eight points behind leaders ES Setif with four games to go. Put says it has not been a smooth season. "We had a lot of injured players and a lot of problems. The Algerian League is very competitive even though we always want to be first," he said.

The Algerians want to win the CAF Champions League.

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