Enugu Rangers, IfeanyiUbah FC, Wikki Tourists face African foes in CAF competitions

By The Citizen

The four Nigerian clubs competing in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup have tough tasks ahead of them as they battle their opponents in the second leg of the preliminary rounds of the competitions this weekend.

The clubs, Enugu Rangers, Rivers United, Wikki Tourists and FC IfeanyiUbah will be seeking to qualify for the first rounds of the two continental competitions. While the first three will be playing at home, IfeanyiUbah are away in Egypt against Al Masry.

In the Champions League, Rivers United, who will host AS Real Bamako of Mali, have to ensure they get a win and avoid a score draw against their opponents at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt, on Sunday. The first leg of the tie played in Mali last week ended goalless.

The winner of the tie will play the winner of the tie between Sudanese club Al Merriekh and Equatorial Guinean side, Sony Ela Nguema. The Sudanese team won 1-0 away in the first leg.

Nigerian champions Rangers began their quest for continental glory in the preliminary rounds of the CAF Champions League with a 1-1 draw at Algerian side JS Saoura last week. A goal from Bobby Clement cancelled the Algerians' opener in the first leg last Friday.

Rangers also need to avoid defeat at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium- a goalless draw or a win will book them a date with Egyptian giants Zamalek in the first round. Zamalek were given a bye into the first round as they finished as the competition's runners-up last season.

Wikki have a tough task against little-known RSLAF of Sierra Leone to qualify for the first round of the Confederation Cup. They lost the first leg 2-0 in Sierra Leone last week.

The coach Mohammed Babaganaru side need to win with more than two goals and avoid conceding any goal to qualify for the first round. The winner of the tie will meet Tunisian side Club Africain.

For continental debutants IfeanyiUbah, they have a tough tie against 2002 semi-finalists Egyptian side, Al Masry, at the Port Said Stadium in Egypt on Sunday. The Nnewi side hold a slim 1-0 lead going into the tie against the Egyptians, who are currently fourth in their domestic league.

The side, who are captained by Super Eagles goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa, need to avoid a defeat - with a draw good enough to book them passage into the first round, where they will meet Malian side Djoliba.

To boost their chances, IfeanyiUbah departed the country on Thursday for Egypt with 75 members of their supporters club.

Media Officer of the club, Iyke Nwokedi, told our correspondent that the club took the fans with them to rally adequate support for the side and avoid intimidation from the home fans.

'The North Africans are known for having more than enough support from their fans so we have to go with our fans too to avoid their fans intimidating our players on the pitch,' he said.

'Our leaving early will allow the players adjust well to the weather in Egypt and also ensure the team rests well before Sunday's match. All we are doing is to ensure we get the points to qualify for the next round of the competition.'

The first round matches will be played between March 10 and 19 over two legs. Winners of the first round in the Champions League will proceed to the 16-team group stages while the winners of the first round of the Confederation Cup will proceed to the play-off round where they will meet with the losers from the Champions League first round.

Wikki midfielder, Yaro Bature, said they will give their best on Sunday to ensure they progress at the expense of the Sierra Leoneans.

'Sunday's game will be tough and we know that. Our opponents will want to score an away goal to make it difficult for us but we are counting on the support of our fans to cheer us to victory,' he said.

'We cannot allow them to beat us home and away. Our coach has told us that we are not representing Bauchi State alone but the whole country. It was a tough match in the first leg but we have been training hard after we rested from the journey we undertook in the first leg.'

Rivers coach, Stanley Eguma, also believes that with the support of the fans, the team would qualify for the next stage of the competition despite their first leg draw.

He said, 'We expect our fans and all Rivers people to come out (in their numbers) to support the team on Sunday. Getting a draw in the first leg does not mean this tie is over. AS Real Bamako is a very good side technically, with young and mobile players as we experienced first-hand last weekend.

'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.'