The Africa champions were in Sudan last week where they lost 2-0 while, at the same time, Ghana were emphatic winners over Lesotho recording a 7-0 scoreline in Kumasi.
That status puts Zambia’s Chipolopolo in third position of Group D with no point while Ghana and Sudan are on three points apiece with the Black Stars enjoying a superior goal difference.
This meeting is a repeat of the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final in which Ghana played all the football but Zambia did what matters most – score goals – emerging 1-0 victors enroute to their first continental title last February.
While Renard is not making major changes from the team that defeated Ghana at the Nations Cup co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, his opposite Kwesi Appiah has blended youthful local players and their foreign-based counterparts.
Ghana’s top players Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, Asamoah Gyan, John Pantsil, John Mensah, Jonathan Mensah and Michael Essien are missing from the traveling contingent for various reasons including injuries.
As for Renard, he has assembled the best he could get for Chipolopolo with only Netherlands-based striker Jacob Mulenga, Clifford Mulenga of SuperSport United and Collins Mbesuma notable absentees.
The importance of collecting maximum points for Renard’s team to remain in strong contention for a maiden place at the World Cup cannot be overemphasized.
Zambia’s team captain Christopher Katongo told journalist that all the players are aware of the task and winning should be non-negotiable.
Coach Renard is hoping the team will not be affected with off-the-field gymnastics which included his threat to quit for non-payment of his salary for six month.
Influential midfielder Rainford Kalaba was the only player reported to suffer a slight knock but team physician Dr Joseph Kabungo has assured fans the TP Mazembe star will be ready for selection.
Renard is expected to make some changes with Felix Katongo and defender Emmanuel Mbola lining up in the starting 11.
Mbola is expected to take over the left wingback position from Thomas Nyirenda while Chisamba Lungu and Isaac Chansa may pave way for Felix and William Njobvu respectively.
As for Ghana’s Appiah, only captain Sulley Muntari had sat out of training on Thursday when the Black Stars landed in Zambia for the crunch match.
However, a clean bill of health in the Ghana camp has been declared with Appiah happy to welcome back defender Isaac Vorsah to strengthen the backline while he is expected to retain faith in the strikeforce duo of Dominic Adiyiah and Jordan Ayew.
The duo produced four goals between them in the seven goal blitz against Lesotho and the Black Stars are hoping their prowess will be key against Zambia.