Two teams looking to get their Africa Cup of Nations campaigns up and running face off at the Kouekong Stadium, as Malawi and Zimbabwe square up against each other.
Both teams suffered defeat in their respective opening Group B fixtures last time out and will want to get back on track with a positive result on Friday.
Zimbabwe were undone in the dying minutes of their clash versus Senegal on Monday which finished 1-0.
Norman Mapeza’s men were on course to secure an impressive point against their more illustrious opponents, only for Sadio Mane to break the deadlock from the spot right at the death.
The Warriors find themselves in a familiar situation once again as they stare down the possibility of a third group-stage exit on the bounce.
However, the southern Africans will take great belief from their performance last time out and will hope to use it as a springboard for a more productive outing going forward.
After employing a more conservative approach to their opening match against Senegal as they sought to secure at least a point, Mapeza says they will change the approach for the Malawi game, where nothing short of a victory would enhance their chances to move to the knockout stage.
“Against Senegal, we were a bit cautious, we denied them space, but against Malawi, we will have a different approach. We have done our homework and we know exactly what we want to do,” Mapeza told the media during the pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“Chances of going to the next round are very high, we still have two games. We just have to go there with a positive mind and believe. We have hope and with the quality of players we have, we have a good chance of going to the next round.
“The Malawi game is a must-win game and if we can get that and maybe get at least a point against Guinea, we will go through. We have been working very hard and we have done video analyses. We are ready.”
Meanwhile, Malawi also had nothing to show for a very spirited display against Guinea on Monday when they fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat and would be aiming for an upset against their Southern African rivals.
The Flames went behind to Issiaga Sylla’s 35th-minute opener and were unable to get back on level terms in the second period.
Meke Mwase’s men have now lost five consecutive games across all competitions and are in urgent need of a pick-me-up.
Awaiting them next is a clash versus an opposing outfit who have lost only one of the previous 10 meetings between the teams.
Featuring in just their third AFCON tournament in history, Malawi are approaching the last-chance saloon to prevent an early exit from the competition.
Malawi Africa Cup of Nations form: L
Malawi form (all competitions): WLLLLL
Zimbabwe Africa Cup of Nations form: L
Zimbabwe form (all competitions): LLLDDL
Kelvin Madzongwe suffered the agony of giving away the decisive penalty against Senegal, but the midfielder put on an otherwise impressive display and should keep his place in the XI.
Knowledge Musona was hauled off with an injury in the final knockings of the aforementioned match, making the 31-year-old a major doubt for this one while midfielder Kundai Benyu is also a major doubt after limping off the field of play in the first game
Malawi have had to call upon the services of five reserve-team players due to the numerous cases of COVID-19 within the initial 28-man squad.
Brighton Munthali, Paul Ndlovu, Dan Chimbalanga, Gerald Phiri, and Stain Dave are the players in question and are all expected to arrive in Cameroon ahead of Thursday’s contest.
Malawi possible starting lineup: Kakhobwe; Chembezi, Mzava, Chirwa; Madinga, Idana, J. Banda, Mhone; P. Banda, Chester, Muyaba
Zimbabwe possible starting lineup: Mhari; Bhasera, Hadebe, Takwara, Chimwemwe; Madzongwe, Kamusoko, Musona; Wadi, Zemura, Kadewere