Injury-hit Zimbabwe face tough challenge vs. Congo-Brazzaville

New faces in African Cup of Nations (2:24)

KweseESPN's Ed Dove takes a closer look at some of the best debutants to watch out for this weekend in Africa. (2:24)

Zimbabwe resume their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign when they face Group G foe Congo-Brazzaville away on Sunday.

With a double-header against group favourites Democratic Republic of Congo lying in wait next month, the Warriors know that they can ill afford to drop points in this weekend's bout.

However, the clash in Central Africa will also offer a secondary value, allowing Zimbabwean fans to get a glimpse of the direction the team is taking under new coach Sunday Chidzambwa.

Zimbabwe currently top Group G on goal difference after outclassing Liberia 3-0 in their opening fixture in June, while Congo were defeated 3-1 by the DRC and find themselves under pressure to pick up some points.

With the Leopards favourites to top the group, the tussle for second place may ultimately be decided in the matches between Zim and Congo-Brazzaville, making Sunday's game all the more crucial.

Both squads will be shorn of some key players, with Congo's Brazilian coach Valdo Filho having left out captain Prince Oniangue and his deputy Delvin Ndinga, along with striker Dylan Saint Louis, among others.

Zimbabwe, meanwhile, are reeling from the withdrawals of outstanding Club Brugge midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, experienced defender Costa Nhamoinesu, China-based striker Nyasha Mushekwi and exciting prospect Tino Kadewere, all through injury.

In-form Kaizer Chiefs man Khama Billiat is walking wounded, while centre-half Teenage Hadebe has only just returned to action after shaking off his own injury woes.

However, Chidzambwa believes he has enough depth to overcome the withdrawals, with Congo not in great shape in recent years.

A run of three wins in 21 matches reflects a team in freefall since reaching the quarter finals of the 2015 AFCON.

Their form belies a FIFA World Ranking of 83, which is actually higher than Zim in 118.

The coach will certainly be keen to avoid a repeat of the two sides' meeting in 1991, when Congo thwarted their bid for what would have been a debut AFCON appearance.

Leading the Central Africans 2-1 at the National Sports Stadium with only a few minutes left on the clock, Zimbabwe were on the brink of qualification, only for a hideous error from goalkeeper John Sibanda to allow Congo to level.

Back then, just as now, Zimbabwe were captained by a Belgium-based player in midfielder Moses Chunga, then in his prime.

On Sunday, it will be Anderlecht's Knowledge Musona leading Zimbabwe's quest for glory, with the talisman having scored all three goals in the win over Liberia to take his international tally to 20 in 30 appearances.

His form will be vital if the Congolese defence is to be unlocked on Sunday, and he has the quality to add to his tally so far, particularly if Billiat shakes off a hamstring strain to partner him. Zimbabwe's strength lies in the final third, where Chidzambwa can also count on the services of Talent Chawapiwa, Evans Rusike, and the recalled Kuda Mahachi.

Uncapped Lucky Mkosana of Penn FC has also been introduced to the fold, and represents an in-form alternative after 10 goals in the USL so far this term.

Danny Phiri and Marshal Munetsi in midfield will also be key men as Zimbabwe look to absorb the waves of pressure expected from their foe, although cohesion might prove problematic considering the side's lack of recent fixtures together and the significant changes in personnel on and off the field.