The Flying Antelopes must win well in Enugu if they want to be one of the eight clubs that will progress to the group stage of the Caf Champions League
The die is cast and the stage is set for the second round first leg encounter of the Caf Champions League between Enugu Rangers and Recreativo Libolo.
For Rangers the club must come all out for a good win at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium on Sunday if they want to progress to the lucrative group stage of the competition for the first time while Recreativo of Angola also has their mission.
The Flying Antelopes are the sole representatives of Nigeria on the continent this year after the other three clubs were eliminated in the last round from both competitions. To Nigerians the elimination of Heartland, Lobi Stars and Kano Pillars is a bit strange having watched our teams progressed to the crucial stages of both competitions in the past.
For record purposes, 2013 will go down in history as one of the worst years for Nigerian clubs on the continent. In the last three years, clubs representing the country have only missed qualification to the final by the whiskers. Sunshine Stars got to the semi finals of both competitions in 2011 and 2012, Enyimba also marched on to the last four in 2011 before they were stopped by Wydad Athletic Club Casablanca of Morocco in the Caf Champions League. Heartland were also finalists of the same competition in 2009 but they couldn't win it after they lost on the away goals rule to TP Mazembe of DR Congo.
Recreativo are the Angolan league champions for the past two years and when they face Rangers in Enugu on Sunday, they will be doing so with revenge mission on their minds. Last year, the club's march to the group stage was halted by a Nigerian club-Sunshine Stars. They thought they had completed the job in Libolo after defeating the Akure Gunners 4-1 but they got the shock of their lives when Sunshine handed them a 3-0 defeat. Sunshine thus booked a passage to the next round while Recreativo were relegated to the Caf Confederation Cup.
Rangers have all it takes to qualify for the group stage. They have tested players and experienced coaches with which to rattle their guests but the off the field problems bedevilling the club most especially regarding funding may work against the club and the aspirations set for the season.
Some of the players they pencilled down for this competition are yet to be cleared. They also issues with injuries to some key players too. Sunday Mba and Chigozie Agbim's involvement with the Flying Antelopes is yet to be resolved. It is also causing distraction to the club's quest to win the league and also get to the group stage of the competition.
Rangers source informed that the club has got useful tips from Sunshine Stars but the information will be incomplete if the club is not told that Recreativo are also a very difficult side to beat judging by their form in the competition this year. They had beaten Simba of Tanzania and Al-Merrikh of Sudan whom they beat both home and away despite their intimidating track record. They remain unbeaten till date in the competition and they have conceded only two goals while scoring nine goals in the process.
The Angolans are noted for being good hosts too as Sunshine Stars could testify to this last year. They always make their visitors have all the comfort they need and in the process tend to forget the reason they had come to the Southern African nation. Sunshine were treated to all the delicacies they wanted and in the process forgot they came to the country to play an important game. They were carried away and they lost 1-4. Rangers should beware of their antics.
Rangers will seek a big win on Sunday to put the club at a vantage position ahead of the second leg tie in two weeks. the loser of the two clubs will still have another chance in the Caf Confederation Cup but the Flying Antelopes will not choose that option because they know Nigerians always like to be where the action really is.
While Nigeria only has a team left on the continent, Angola still has a representative in Recreativo da Caála. The club is still in the Caf Confederation Cup.