Peter Mponda is released by his club Santos for Malawi

By Frank KanduBBC Sport, Blantyre
Santos and Malawi's Peter Mponda
Malawi captain Peter Mponda is at the centre of a club-versus-country row over his fitness

Malawi coach Kinnah Phiri says his team doctors will asses Mponda's fitness on Thursday ahead of Saturday's 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tunisia.

Mponda, out since February with a knee injury, has been training without problems since joining the camp.

"He's been training since yesterday and will be assessed on Thursday," Phiri told BBC Sport.

"When you come back from injury, you need time to get up to speed."

"And Saturday's match against Tunisia is going to be a tough battle - so we may not want a player who is just returning from injury."

South African side Santos had initially refused to release the Malawi captain to join up with the Flames squad.

The club had instead sent a medical report saying he was not ready to return to action yet.

The defender was included in Phiri's squad despite a long-term injury., suffered while playing for Santos, and he has yet to return to competitive action.

Santos had said it would be a risk to feature Mponda in such a crucial match before he has completely recovered.

But the Malawi Football Association insisted he be released so its doctors can look at Mponda too.

Coach Kinnah Phiri, who went to South Africa recently to assess the player's recovery, says Mponda himself insists he is ready to bounce back and feels Santos are being unfair.

"I need Mponda because as captain it's not only about kicking the ball. We need to win at all costs and he as the skipper also instils confidence in the team," the coach added.

Malawi are currently third in Group K, level with Tunisia on 10 points with just two games left for each side.

Botswana have already qualified as group winners but with five teams in the pool, the runners-up are also guaranteed a place at the finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next year.

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