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Plateau Utd, MFM, Akwa Utd set for continental battles

Three out of four Nigeria Professional Football League clubs will be in action tomorrow in this year’s CAF club competitions against opponents from other African…

Three out of four Nigeria Professional Football League clubs will be in action tomorrow in this year’s CAF club competitions against opponents from other African countries as they seek their first continental titles.

Plateau United and MFM will face oppositions in the Champions League while Aiteo Cup winners, Akwa United will start their campaign in the CAF Confederation Cup at home against Banjul Hawks.

Meanwhile, former African champions, Enyimba are among the clubs that have been drawn by in the Confederation Cup. This means, they won’t take part in the preliminary matches.

NPFL champions, Plateau United will welcome Eding Sport of Cameroon tomorrow at the New Jos township stadium while MFM will be in Bamako to face Real Bamako of Mali.

Plateau United are making their second appearance in the continent. It will be recalled that they represented Nigeria in 2000 in the CAF Winners Cup but were eliminated in the first round.

After winning their first NPFL title in style last season, Plateau United are expected to put up better performance this time.

In order to do well, the club went on a serious recruitment that saw them bringing on board some highly talented and experienced players to beef up their squad.

The arrival of players like Raphael Ayagwa, Tosin Omoleye, King Osanga, Amos Gyang and Okiemute Odah has helped in strengthening the squad. 

Interestingly the core of the team that won for them their first league title has been retained.

Players like captain Elisha Golbe, Peter Eneji, Daniel Itodo, Kabiru Umar, Junior Salomon, Joshua Obaje, Chukwuemeka Umeh and Benjamin Turba are very much around to steer the team to glory in the Champions League.

Although Plateau United did not have a convincing pre-season, they are currently doing well in the domestic league where they are second on the table.

And ahead of their match against Eding Sport, Plateau United’s squad has been boosted by the return of Itodo, Eneji and Ajiboye from the 2018 CHAN. 

The trio helped the Home-based Super Eagles to second place finish in the just concluded biennial championship for home-based players.

However, Eneji who was sent off in the final match against Morocco will have to quickly shake off that disappointment to help Plateau United start their campaign in a convincing manner.

In as much as Eding Sport are also making their debut in the Champions League, they are a threat to Plateau United’s continental ambition. 

The match will surely reignite the existing football rivalry between Nigeria and Cameroon. Thus, to underscore the serious attention being paid to the tie, United’s technical adviser, Kennedy Boboye went to Cameroon to spy on their opponents.  

Consequently, he should be able plot the fall of the Cameroonians in Jos. Plateau United need to win big tomorrow in order to stand a good chance of progressing in the competition.

Already, Boboye is talking tough as he told SHOT! in an exclusive interview that Plateau United are in the competition to reach the final and also win the trophy.

He said, “We want to play in the finals and possibly win the trophy. It is doable, it is about hard work and having full concentration, and we can do it.

“That’s why we are working hard and our match is coming against a team from Cameroun.  We need a massive result that would take us to next round even before the second leg would be played”.

Boboye rated Eding Sport as a compact and well organised side but assured that his team would work hard to win.

“They have been playing some friendly games, and I watched them in Cameroun and they also played a friendly match in Angola. 

“I don’t want to use their league that is yet to commence to judge them. They are a good side, they are compact but my team would open them so that we can get massive result,” he said. 

Boboye therefore said his players would replicate their performance in the NPFL when they face Eding Sport on Sunday.

Boboye’s confidence is not unfounded going by Plateau United’s recent thrashing of Sunshine Stars of Akure in Jos. They smashed five goals past the Akure Gunners.

Plateau United’s new signing, Raphael Ayagwa also said Eding Sport won’t escape defeat in Jos.

“We are ready to take on our opponents. It is true we do not know much about them but our coach has given us an idea of what to expect.

“We have been working on our game plan and I believe that things will work out well for us to start the campaign with a convincing win,” he said.

Nigeria’s other representative in the Champions League, MFM face a bigger hurdle as they will be up against a formidable team in Real Bamako.

In this contest, almost all the odds are against MFM as their opponents have more experience in continental football.

While MFM was founded in 2007 and joined the elite division of Nigerian football in 2015, Real Bamako came into existence since 1960. 

Although they last featured in the Champions League in 1992, they have an intimidating record having seven appearances in the Champions League and two outings in the Confederations Cup.

Unlike MFM who are yet to win any major trophy, Real Bamako have won six league titles and 10 Malian Cups.

Going by their record, Real Bamako are favoured to win against MFM but football is not mathematics where one plus one is two. So the ‘Olukoya boys’ will be hoping to have a fairly good result in Bamako.

The task may look intimidating but MFM also boast of quality players who can hold their own against the Malians. 

Although their performance in the domestic league is anything but encouraging, Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu should be able to mobilise his troops for the battle of Bamako.

Players like Sikiru Olatubosun, Chukwuka Onuwa, Austine Opara, Bashiru Monsuru, Austine Ogunye, Stanley Okorom and Egbe Ospino may not have the required international exposure but they can do the damage, if Real Bamako would take anything for granted.

Meanwhile, Akwa United who are representing Nigeria in CAF’s second tier competition, Confederation Cup, will host Hawks of Banjul at the Godswill Akpabio international stadium Uyo.

Like Plateau United, this Akwa United’s second appearance in the continent. Their first outing was in 2016 when they represented Nigeria in this same competition but crashed out in the preliminary round after winning their opening match 1-0 at Club Mokanda of Congo.

This time, the ‘promise keepers’ look more formidable and better organised to keep their promise. 

Coach Abdul Maikaba has reinforced the team with quality players like Dennis Nya, Kelly Kester, Victor Mbaoma, Gabriel Wassa, Asuquo Aniekeme and Adeshina Gata.

At the moment, Akwa United are leading the NPFL table and are expected to approach the Hawks of Banjul with the same form which saw them spanking Wikki Tourists 4-0 in their last home match.

Technical Adviser of the team, Abdul Maikaba told SHOT! that his team will do well in their opening match of the campaign.

He said the players are well motivated to battle their opponents who parade better credentials.

Unlike Akwa United who came into existence in 1996, Hawks were founded in 1974 as Mabella FC. They have won two league titles and four Gambian Cups and also competed in the CAF Winners Cup as far back as 1984.

One interesting thing about this fixture is that both teams are the reigning champions of their countries’ FA Cup.

“We know that it will be a very difficult match but we are ready to fight for a good result. We don’t want a repeat of what happened to us in 2016.

“Our opponents are older and may have more experience but we are playing at home so we hope to enjoy every available home advantage. 

“A good result on Sunday will make the return leg less difficult for us,” said Maikaba.

If Plateau United can successfully skip Eding Sport’s hurdle, they will face Tunisian giants, Etoile Du Sahel in the first round.

MFM on their part will be up against either As Otoho of Congo Dr or MC Alger of Algeria, if they can scale the preliminary hurdle against Real Bamako.

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