Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL teams campaigning in CAF Club competitions have their work well cut out this Sunday as they face different African clubs in their second leg preliminary ties.
The four clubs, Enugu Rangers, Rivers United, Wikki Tourists and FC Ifeanyi Ubah, are all united in their resolve not to exit the continent very early; but they would have to match their words with action on the pitch to stay in contention.
Going by their first leg results, none of the teams representing Nigeria are home and dry, and so they will have to be at their best if they are to make it to the first round of both the CAF Champions League as well as the CAF Confederations Cup.
Three from the quartet, Enugu Rangers, Rivers United and Wikki Tourists, will be playing at home while FC IfeanyiUbah are in Egypt to battle against El-Masry.
In Port Harcourt, Rivers United have a tricky tie in their hands despite being able to record a commendable result from their first leg in the Champions League, playing out a goalless draw against AS Real de Bamako of Mali.
Though a score draw will be enough to see Malian team through, they have been talking tough; with their coach, Pascal Pons, believing that they can even get the victory in Port Harcourt on Sunday.
“We can win in the second leg and that is exactly how we will approach that game,” Pons said.
“It was hard for us in the first leg because it was the first time we were playing against Rivers United and didn’t know anything about them. Now we know them, and things will be different.”
On his part, coach of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma, urged the fans to come out en-masse to support the team.
Eguma said: “We expect our fans and all Rivers people to come out (in their numbers) to support the team on Sunday.
“We are representing not only Rivers State but Nigeria and we are looking to do the country proud. “There was a mammoth crowd in Bamako in the first leg as their fans came out to cheer their side and we will want the same in Port Harcourt.”
Should Rivers United progress, they will face Sudanese team, Al-Merrikh, in the First round
Rangers were able to record a vital 1-1 draw in Algeria against JS Saoura in the reverse fixture last weekend and will be looking forward to get the job done at home on Sunday.
Though the Nigerian League champions have not been anywhere near fantastic this season, the onus is on them to avoid defeat and avoid a score draw of more than one goal.
Should Rangers concede more than once in this game, only an outright win with a two goal margin will see them progress to the next round of the Champions League.
Going by the feelers from Enugu, Rangers players say they are ready and would make sure they progress to the first round where Zamalek are already waiting.
Meanwhile, Fortune Omoniwari is available for the game after missing the first leg in Algeria, last week
Among the Nigerian flag bearers, Wikki have the most difficult task ahead of them after crumbling to a first leg 2-0 defeat last week in Sierra Leone.
The Bauchi-based team must now score three goals without conceding to progress to the next stage.
While this in itself is an uphill task for the best of attacking line-ups, for a Wikki side that has scored only seven goals in six NPFL games this season it looks more like a mission impossible
For many, Wikki Tourist will need to dig deep for a miracle to avoid an early exit and if they do, they will be facing Tunisian club, Club Africain, in the next round.
FC Ifeanyi Ubah
FC IfeanyiUbah needed a late goal to get a slim 1-0 win in the first leg.
That nonetheless, the Billionaire club that travelled to Egypt with more than 70-man contingent are confident, they will go past El-Masry.
The captain of the team, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, claims that they are not under pressure but will go out to even win away from home.
“We are going there to make our beloved country Nigeria proud, all we need now are prayers from Nigerians. We won the first leg 1-0 in Nnewi and we are going there to get another victory.”
FC Ifeanyi Ubah are only making a maiden appearance in continental football, but they’re surely not short of individual experience with the likes of Tamen Medrano, Stephen Eze, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Prince Aggreh, among others all with some experience on the continent with their previous clubs.
If the Anambra Warriors pull through, they will face Malian side, Djoliba AC.