CAF Champions League: Rivers United, Plateau United, face tough opponents in qualifiers

Oviri Kelvin, Sports Editor, Abuja

Champions of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Rivers United have been drawn to face Watanga FC of Liberia in the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League.

The tie slated within 9-11 September for the first leg of the cracker at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, the fortress of the Pride of Rivers, will have the champions of Liberia first division Watanga FC tangle with coach Stanley Eguma’s side.

A week after, within 16-18 September, the recently crowned NPFL champions will travel to Liberia to play the second leg of the preliminary round against Watanga FC and the winner on aggregate, proceed for a second-round cracking encounter with the defending champions Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco for a place in the group stages.

Recall that the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike had charged the NPFL champions to a resounding victory in the continental tourney assuring the team of his support to ensure they succeed in their first campaign for the CAF Champions League title.

Rivers United are determined to succeed and will explore all avenues including a preseason tour in Madrid and an exhibition clash with Asante Kotoko of Ghana on August 24, in Turkey, to prepare the squad ahead of their maiden continental campaign.

However, the team in the second round that fails to qualify to the CAF Champions League group stage, will slate a second additional round cracker to qualify for the CAF Confederations Cup on November 2 for the first leg tie and return to play the second leg on November 9.

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The second-round cracker with Wydad FC has its first encounter fixed within 7-9 of October while the return encounter is scheduled within 14-16 October.

Meanwhile, Plateau United have been drawn to face Gabon Championnat National D1 champions AS Stade Mandji whose debut in the CAF Champions League dates back to 2010 when they ended in the preliminary round.

Like the dates slated for Rivers United against Watanga FC, Plateau United will host the Gabonese club in the first leg of the preliminary round in Jos before they travel to Stade Pierre Claver Divounguy, Port-Gentil, Gabon, for the second clash.

However, should Plateau United which contended for the NPFL title with Rivers United to finish second place, win on aggregate, they will unavoidably face a tough side, Esperance of Tunisia in the second round.

Esperance of Tunisia are no visitors in the continental tourney as they have a track record of winning the title four times including back-to-back wins in the 2018 and 2019 editions.

Also, the defending champions Wydad Athletic Club have made their mark, winning the CAF Champions League title three times, with their last two victories against Al Ahly of Egypt in 2017 and 2022.

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