Simba, Lyon lock horns in last 16
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GIANTS Simba face a banana-skin test as they entertain unpredictable African Lyon in the last 16 tie of Azam Sports Federation Cup (ASFC) round at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam this afternoon.

The draw for the round of 16 of the ASFC produced some exciting all premier league fixtures and this would be fascinating one to watch given recent meetings between the two sides.

The fixture was initially scheduled for March 1, but the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) brought it forward for technical reasons, a move approved by the two clubs

. Simba, who are desperate to return to international football, cannot underestimate the magnitude of today’s fixture and importance of the Federation Cup, which provides one of the two tickets to represent the country in continental competitions.

The Msimbazi Street Reds crashed out at the quarter-final stage last season after crashing 2-1 to Coastal Union, but will be keen to avoid such embarrassment this time around and try to win the competition, whose winner represents the country in the CAF Confederation Cup.

But they will be aware of the kind of opposition they’re up against having already faced African Lyon in the league this season, when the Reds succumbed to their first defeat of the season, losing 1-0. That gives Lyon confidence going into today’s fixture.

A superb defensive performance and well-calculated attacking display saw Lyon seal a memorable win with a last-gasp winner against a formidable Simba side, ending their 13-match unbeaten run. Would the same tactic produce similar result in favour of Lyon or would Fernando Tavares’ side take a different approach? Whatever way they choose, it would need a heroic performance to outsmart Joseph Omog’s demolition gang.

One of Simba’s main undoing this season has been their goal-shy striking force but recently, they appear to have finally found that cutting edge. Two 3-0 league wins over Majimaji and Tanzania Prisons have demonstrated notable improvements in the Reds’ offensive game. Key to Simba’s newly found attacking verve is the return to form of striking duo Ibrahim Ajib and Laudit Mavugo. The two strikers scored a goal apiece in both fixtures and produced overall impressive performances.

Simba have injury concerns with key defenders Method Mwanjali and Abdi Banda unlikely to feature against Lyon, while Ugandan defender Juuko Murshid is yet to return to the club since his participation in the African Cup of Nations finals with Uganda Cranes.

The Federation Cup’s round of 16 matches are set to continue on February 24 when last season’s runners-up Azam will play host to Mtibwa Sugar at Azam Complex in another gripping all-premier league encounter. Elsewhere, Kagera Sugar will welcome Stand United at Kaitaba Stadium in Bukoba.

Two more matches will be played on the day whereas Ndanda FC will visit the Mighty Elephant at the Majimaji Stadium in Ruvuma, whilst Arusha’s Madini FC will be up against JKT Ruvu at Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium in Arusha.

Other matches will be played on February 26. Mbeya dwellers will be treated to a mouthwatering derby pitting Mbeya City against their city rivals Prisons. Mwanza residents should also brace for a thrilling derby between Mbao FC and Toto Africans at the CCM Kirumba stadium on the same date.

In the last of the eighth ties, defending champions Yanga will be expected to make an easy work of Kiluvya United when the Premier League leaders face the Dar es Salaam minnows on March 7 at the National Stadium.

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