Caf Confederation Cup debutants, USM Bel Abbes will be eyeing a good start when they host Nigeria’s FA Cup champions, Enugu Rangers in the first leg of their first-round clash on Saturday at Stade 24 Fevrier 1956 in Sidi Bel Abbes.
Although formed in 1933, the Algerian club have proved to be living in the shadows of other top clubs in the north African enclave like USM Alger, MC Alger, Constantine, JS Kabylie and others who have achieved more successes in their domestic league and on the continent.
To progress to the first round of Africa’s second-tier club competition the Algerian Cup champions breezed past LISCR of Liberia 4-1 on aggregate after owing their qualification to a fantastic first leg advantage where they pummeled the West Africans 4-0 at home. They must achieve such outcome against Rangers if they are to stand any chance of facing the heat in the second leg.
USMBA will rely heavily on the form of goalkeeper, Nadjib Ghoul, Samir Zerrouki, Larbi Tabti, Mohamed Lagraa, Hamza Belahouel and Ishak Bouda to open the first leg account emphatically before the return leg. They also have the weather at their advantage with the Nigerian team only making it to Abbes only on Friday which is just about 24 hours to the crucial encounter.
Enugu Rangers will be facing USMBA in the first leg of Africa’s second-tier club competition on Saturday aware that they possess better credentials in the competition than their opponents with the current edition being their fifth appearance. They have also started this campaign on a high with consecutive wins over Ethiopian side, Defence Force in the preliminary round.
Though Nigerian clubs have always struggled against North African teams Enugu Rangers have had relative success against them and they even eliminated JS Saoura also from Algeria in the preliminary round of the Caf Champions League in 2017.
Rangers have shown that they are not ready to play second fiddle to any team in the continent with the way they dispatched off Defence Force and they can only aspire to move to the next round if they are able to hold their own against USMBA and strive to avoid a defeat by any means. They have Coach Gbenga Ogunbote who was the masterminds of their miraculous comeback in the final of their FA Cup triumph and most of the heroes of the competition are still very much intact.
Godwin Aguda proved to be Rangers talisman in the preliminary round when he scored three goals- all from the penalty spot out of the five goals they recorded against Defence Force of Ethiopia. They equally have Kelvin Itoya, Ajani Ibrahim, Nana Bonsu, Okey Odita and so on.
If Rangers are able to re-enact their impressive form in the last round of the competition, USMBA will be in for a shocker and the Flying Antelopes’ confidence will be lifted by the fact that they secured a morale-boosting 1-1 draw against JS Saoura when they last visited Algeria last year.