By Tadious Manyepo
WARRIORS’ midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, could make his much-anticipated debut for English Premiership football side Aston Villa in a Carabao Cup second-round clash against League Two side Crewe tonight.
The 25-year-old former Bantu Rovers star joined the Birmingham-based club for a reported fee of £10.8 million from Belgian giants Club Brugge close to a month ago but he is yet to feature for the English top-flight returnees.
Yet, Aston Villa manager Dean Smith hasn’t made it a secret that Nakamba is the type of player who suits his philosophy.
The Zimbabwean, who got injured in the opening game of the African Cup of Nations match against hosts Egypt in June, was reportedly still to catch up with his new teammates’ fitness levels over the last three weeks.
Nakamba, along with about three other new signings, haven’t been able to make it into the team, three weeks since the 2019/20 English Premiership season started.
Villa won their first league outing, a 2-0 triumph over Everton at Villa Park on Friday night, to ease mounting pressure on Smith’s charges which followed a disastrous 1-3 loss to Tottenham before they lost 1-2 at home to Bournemouth in their second match of the new season.
They are 16th on the 20-team log with three points to their name, six behind leaders Liverpool.
And with Zimbabweans back home eagerly awaiting for their hero’s maiden appearance in the Villa colours, it appears, they could wait no more after Smith hinted to the Birmingham Mail that the Highlanders Juniors’ product may start in the Carabao Cup encounter against Crewe tonight.
In fact, Aston Villa make the short-ish trip to Crewe Alexandra tonight for the Carabao Cup second round.
And according to reports from Birmingham, Smith is expected to make a number of changes following Villa’s brilliant Friday night’s 2-0 victory over Everton at a raucous Villa Park.
Tonight will give Smith the perfect opportunity to give some of his squad players, who include Nakamba, much-needed minutes.
“Marvelous has been catching up a bit. He got injured in the Afcon playing for Zimbabwe and joined us a bit later. He has been catching up with his fitness and is getting very close now,” Smith told Birmingham Mail yesterday.
“We signed a lot of new players. They’ve integrated really well but it’s also about learning about the speed of the game in the Premier League and how we train and play.
“Some of them got in earlier than others and some of them are waiting their turn but are working hard in training to get into the team. You have to earn the right to play. You’ve got to prove you’re better than the players who’ve already got the shirts.
“The idea is to bring in quality players who can grab their shirts off them.
“They have to earn the right. We’ve had a really good pre-season where it was very competitive.”
Smith could grab the Carabao opportunity as a chance to rotate his squad and evaluate the progress made by the likes of the £55 000-per-week Nakamba ahead of his team’s Premiership visit to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Smith apparently has plans for the midfielder as he described him as a force in an interview with Sky Sports upon his signing.
“Marvelous fits the criteria of the type of player we were looking for. He is very mobile, he’s very good in possession and he will fit in with our style of play,” Smith said then.
It remains to be seen if Nakamba will make the midweek match tonight but Smith will be hopeful of giving the energetic midfielder some minutes.
While Nakamba, the fourth Zimbabwean to play in the English top-tier after Bruce Grobbelaar, Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari, is yet to make his debut at Aston Villa, another Warriors’ player Tino Kadewere is making waves in the French Ligue 2.
The Le Havre AC forward is in top form and is already leading the goal-scoring charts in the division, having netted eight times in five games.
Kadewere (23) has scored in each of the five games he has featured for Le Havre AC this season including three braces in the games against Lens, Ajaccio and Grenoble Foot last Friday.
His goals have been handy for the undefeated promotion-seeking Le Havre AC who are second on the log, with just two points separating them with leaders Lorient.
Le Havre AC fans on Friday night chanted Kadewere’s name throughout the match as his goals, delivered 16 minutes into the match and nine minutes before the interval helped their team to a commanding 3-1 victory over Grenoble Foot.
“I thank God for the form I am in. I would like to continue on this trajectory. I would like to thank everyone at the club but we still have a lot of work to do. It’s still early days but we will continue working hard,” said Kadewere from his base in France yesterday.
Another Zimbabwe international, Alec Mudimu, the 24-year-old Cefn Druids defender in the Welsh top-flight, was also on target as he converted from the penalty spot in his team’s 3-1 victory over Airbus UK while his Warriors central defence partner Teenage Hadebe wasn’t so lucky.
Hadebe’s Turkish side Yeni Malatyaspor lost 1-2 away to Mikel Obi’s Trabzonspor in a Superliga tie on Sunday.
Hadebe played the full match and despite the loss, his numbers showed he had a good game.
The 23-year-old Warriors defender is reported to have made six clearances, had a rating of 4/5 in tackles won, 6/7 in ground duels and his pass accuracy was rated at 83%.
With an average rating of 7.0, Hadebe was the best player for Malatyaspor in this match.
In Spain, Young Warriors goalkeeper Martin “Neuer” Mapisa had a good day in the office, keeping a clean sheet as his third-tier Spanish team Velez CF beat Polideportivo 3-0 in the season-opener on Sunday.
And the 21-year-old tall goalkeeper was ecstatic after keeping a clean sheet in the season-opener.
“I feel so great because it boosts my morale ahead of the other upcoming league matches,”Mapisa told our sister paper, The Herald, from his base in Velez, Spain, yesterday.
A product of the Aces Youth Soccer Academy in Harare, Mapisa is the only Zimbabwean goalkeeper who is currently plying his trade in Europe.
Mapisa plays for Velez CF together with fellow Zimbabwean, Abubakar Moffat, a midfielder who is also a product of the Aces Youth Soccer Academy and started Sunday’s match on the bench. The Chronicle
Source: Nehanda Radio