CAF competitions: Nigeria's clubs seek to make history

Etoile Sportive du Sahel's Mohamed Methnani and Tosin Omoleye & Sunday Ngbede of Plateau United MOHAMED MESSARA © BackpagePix

Nigeria's four representatives in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup are poised to contest their second-leg fixtures around the continent this weekend.

Reigning NPFL champions Plateau United and surprise package MFM FC are on the brink of a maiden appearance in the Champions League group stage - although both need to get the job done against tough North African opponents.

In Africa's secondary club competition, Enyimba are favourites to get the job done against Energie of Benin, but Akwa United face a much tricker task as they look to reach the next round.

Plateau United have the toughest task of the lot, although while they looked to be dead and buried in the first leg after conceding three times in the first eight minutes, late goals from Raphael Ayagwa and Tosin Omoyele ensured a 4-2 scoreline.

They'll have to overcome the disappointment of playing on a 'neutral' ground after CAF ordered the home tie to be played in Kano rather than their traditional home in Jos.

A 2-0 win would see United into the group-stage of the money-spinning CAF Champions League, but after they were exposed defensively in the first leg, a drop into the Confederation Cup appears more likely.

Elsewhere, MFM FC take a slender 2-1 lead away to MC Alger of Algeria at the Stade du 5 Juillet Stadium on Saturday.

The first leg was won courtesy of a late screamer from Monsuru Bashiru, a goal which could prove priceless in deciding the minnows' fate as they look to do battle with the North African heavyweights.

One major concern for MFM has to be their poor away domestic record this season.

However, while they remain pointless on the road in the league, they managed to earn an impressive draw at AS Real Bamako in the Preliminary Round, and know that the same result would see them through this time around.

However, MFM ought to be wary after MC Alger crushed AS Otoho 9-0 at home in the previous round. A similar mauling would take the shine of what has been an encouraging maiden continental campaign for the new boys.

A hostile home crowd, adverse weather conditions, and playing under the floodlights will be unfamiliar factors for the church-sponsored club, who are firmly in uncharted territory.

Aiteo Cup winners Akwa United will attempt to set the record straight when they host Al-Ittihad Tripoli of Libya at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.

The Nigerians trail 1-0 from the first-leg following Muad Eisa's 83rd-minute header in what was an evenly balanced game. One major concern for the Promise Keepers is their failure to win a home game in this competition in two previous attempts.

Despite growing concerns regarding their ability to turn the tie around at home, midfielder Kelly Kester believes United are capable of progression against the North Africans.

"We believe, we can overturn the result," he told KweséESPN. "Prior to our defeat away in Tunisia, Akwa United had never lost an away game on the continent and we are confident of setting another record of winning for the first time at home in the Confederation Cup.

"It's an outcome which guarantees progression to the playoff round."

Finally, in Calabar, giants Enyimba host Energie in what should be a routine victory for the People's Elephant.

They made light work of their hosts away in the previous bout between the two, emerging comfortable 2-0 winners.

Judging by pedigree and current form, anything asides a dominant Enyimba performance and a convincing would be a shock.

Despite holding the advantage, winger Stanley Dimgba insists the Nigerian giants won't be underestimating their opponents.

"We look strong to qualify for the next stage of the competition," he told KweséESPN. "Energie aren't a bad team as we saw in the first leg.

"The major difference was we took our chances early on, while they failed to utilise their opportunities.

"Enyimba are a dominant force on the continent of Africa," the left-footer added, "and we are battle-ready to extend our fine reputation at home on Sunday.