Kumasi Asante Kotoko will return to the Caf Champions League for the first time since 2010 - where they made a dramatic preliminary round exit via penalty shootouts at the hands of Senegalese side ASC Linguerre - on Sunday.
The Ghana Premier League defending champions will be playing against Equatorial Guinea champions Sony Ela Nguema at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in the preliminary fixture of the continent’s flagship club competition.
Kotoko, two-time African Champions, go into the game on the back of an unimpressive first round display in the Ghana Premier League, where they currently lie 3rd.
Ahead of the game, the Kumasi-based side played two warm up friendlies over the past week, drawing goalless with fellow top flight side Ashanti Gold FC and beating lower tier side Sunshine FC 5-0 (goals from new signing Abdul Aziz Yusif, Winger Richard Mpong, Marksman Kofi Nti Boakye and midfield enforcer Godfred Asante).
On loan star center-back Rashid Sumaila, who rejoined his team-mates after being dropped from the Black Stars Afcon 2013 squad, will be available for selection, despite Mamelodi Sundowns confirming during the week that they have officially signed him up. Sumaila will join the South African Club in June, after impressing coach Pitso Mosimane in a friendly tour in Zimbabwe.
Opponents Nguema arrived in Ghana on Thursday, with captain Fortunato Nguema and Ivorian Coach Yelato Silue expressing confidence ahead of the clash. The trainer said his side are not ‘scared of Kotoko.’
The Malabo-based side are participating in their fifth Caf Champions League, and eighth overall (adding appearances in the competitions former format) and are used to early eliminations, having been knocked out of the preliminary stage five times and the first round three times.
Coach Didi Dramani said his side’s goal is to “create an impact” and “reach the group stage” of the competition, but his side will take it a match at a time. The Porcupine Warriors themselves do not have an impressive recent past record either, having made it to the group stage only once since their first ever Caf Champions League appearance in 2004.
The match is at 15:00 GMT on Sunday. Both sides will be hoping to grind out an advantageous result ahead of the second leg at the Estadio de Malabo early next month.
Did you know
-Sony Ela Nguema are Equatorial Guinea’s most successful side, with 14 league titles, whilst Kotoko are Ghana’s most successful, with 21 league titles. Nguema are famous for winning their championship a record eight consecutive times from 1984 to 1991.
-Both teams are fresh defending champions of their respective leagues.
-Both teams are captained by defenders - Ohene Brenya for Kotoko, Fortunato Nguema for Sony Ela Nguema
-The Equatoguineans have won their domestic cup seven times, whilst Kotoko have won Ghana’s domestic cup competition eight times.
-Sony Ela Nguema’s last Caf Champions League appearance was in the last edition, where they were thrashed 6-0 on aggregate by Nigerian outfit Dolphins FC in the preliminary round. Kotoko’s last appearance was in 2010, losing on penalties to Senegalese side ASC Linguerre in the preliminary round.
-Kotoko have won two continental titles, whilst their Equatoguinean counterparts have failed to win any continental laurels in their history.
-There are four different players with the surname ‘Nguema’ in the Equatoguinean champions’ team, including their star defender and captain Fortunato.
-Accra Hearts of Oak, Kotoko’s bitterest rivals, beat Sony Ela Nguema 9-0 on aggregate in the first round of the 1999 Caf Champions League.