By Paul Erewuba
Rangers International of Enugu, will take on Zesco United of Zambia over two legs for a place in the CAF Confederations Cup competition group stage, starting with the first leg tomorrow at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu at 4:00 pm.
The second leg is expected to take place at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Zambia on Friday, April 14.
The reigning Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions were dumped out in the first round of the CAF Champions League by Zamalek of Egypt and they rare in the relegation waters of NPFL.
Indeed, the Imama Amakapabo – coached outfit are no doubt under pressure. Pressure from fans and home government. But their opponents are not. And this is what could make a huge difference in tomorrow’s encounter.
Zesco reached the semifinals of last season’s CAF Champions League and are experienced continental campaigners.
Before they were eliminated from the Champions League, they saw off Burundi side Les Messager Ngozi beating them 2-0 at home before drawing 2-2 away in Bujumbura.
Fresh from winning silverware at home, the coach Zlatko Krmpotic – tutored side reportedly thumped Nkana FC 2-0 in the Charity Shield final at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium last Sunday to grab her first silverware of the season.
To underscore their seriousness in the quest of either beating Rangers at their backyard or getting a draw, Krmpotic stormed Nigeria Wednesday via Simon Mwansa International Airport aboard Ethiopian Airlines to acclamatise with the Nigerian weather.
From the look of things, against the backdrop of preparedness, Zesco could be said to be ahead of Rangers. But as the saying goes, football is not mathematics where one plus one will always remain two.
What the Enugu Antelopes need do is to up their game, forget experience of this season in both the league and on the continent and wear the gab of last year’s performance.
Rangers would be boosted by the fact that six players of Zesco are out of the trip to Enugu and have reportedly not yet seen any action this year – Marcel Kalonda, Bornwell Silengo, Bernard Mapili, Lazarous Kambole, Bwalya Chiti and Maybin Kalengo.
Krmpotic will also be without some experienced, injured players like Jackson Mwanza and Mischeck Chaila while Idriss Mbombo is out due to suspension after accumulating two yellow cards.
Aside from Rangers, Nigeria’s other representative in the Confederation Cup is Rivers United who will face Rayon Sports of Rwanda.
Rivers United were dumped out of the CAF Champions League to the Confederation Cup with a 3-4 aggregate having lost 4-0 away to Al-Merrikh of Sudan.