Rivers United technical manager, Stanley Eguma is optimistic Nigerian clubs can hold their own in the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup this year.
Rivers United and Rangers will both fly Nigeria’s flag in Africa’s premiere club competition – the Champions League while Wikki Tourists and FC Ifeanyiubah will both seek to become the first Nigerian club to win the Caf Confederation Cup – the continent’s second-tier club competition.
Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) clubs have generally underwhelmed in Caf’s inter-club competitions in recent years but Eguma believes the trend can be bucked in 2017.
“It is still too early to definitely say whether or not Rivers United can win the Caf Champions League because we have still not hit optimum form with the NPFL season still in its early stages.
“None of the African clubs that have entered for both competitions (Champions League and Confederation Cup) can confidently say they know which team will win (the respective titles).
“However, I will not rule out Nigerian clubs because we have begun to build stronger teams now.
“The competitiveness of the NPFL is also helping our clubs and I am confident that Rivers United will surprise many on the continent.
“We are looking at performing the past feats of Enyimba (that won the Caf Champions League title in 2003 and 2004).
“If Enyimba, a Nigeria club could win the Caf Champions League title back to back, it is possible that Rivers United can do it as well,” Eguma told the club’s official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Eguma was a member of Enyimba’s coaching staff when the Aba club won the African title for the second time in 2004.
We did not play to the gallery against Rivers United – Maikaba
Akwa United head coach, Abdul Maikaba has refused to be drawn on the popular-held belief that his vast knowledge of the inner-workings of Wikki Tourists will give his current employers the advantage ahead of Sunday’s Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) clash at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi.
Maikaba coached Wikki with distinction, leading the Bauchi club to a third place finish in last season’s NPFL campaign.
The experienced coach has endured a difficult start to life as coach of United and with a trip to Bauchi around the horizon, he has refused to be drawn on whether his time as head of Wikki’s technical crew will give the Promise Keepers any advantage on Sunday as both sides clash in one of the glamour fixtures on match day three.
“I will keep it (the advantages of being a former Wikki coach) to myself because it is purely tactical.
“Besides, if I talk about it now, it will be all over the media and I do not want that,” Maikaba told the rivers united official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Maikaba’s start to life as Akwa United’s coach has been anything but straightforward as he has failed to mastermind a victory in his first two attempts.
United lost 1-3 away from home to newly-promoted ABS FC before dropping two pints at home in a 1-1 draw with Rivers United in midweek.
Some sections of the home support visibly expressed their frustrations at the result and performance of their side on Wednesday with a few claiming that their beloved team was ‘playing to the gallery’.
Maikaba says the fans must be patient and believes the players will soon embrace his philosophy of intricately building up attacks with purposeful play from the rear.
“We did not play to the gallery against Rivers United. We cannot just lump balls forward in the name of trying to attack our opponents.
“It is important to keep possession because the ball is the weapon.
“If you do not have the ball, you do not have the chance to do anything positive and that is why I always encourage my players to always try to have possession of the ball.
“I will never be an apostle of the kind of football that sees a team lump balls aimlessly forward.
“I will keep preaching my philosophy to my players because I believe that with time, they will catch up with it,” he said.
Akwa United currently occupies 18th place on the NPFL standings with a solitary point from their first two matches.