Nigerian clubs begin continental campaigns across Africa
ESPN - Sunday 11th February, 2018
Plateau United, MFM FC and Akwa United begin their quests for continental glory in both the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup this weekend.
In this feature, KweséESPN previews their preliminary round fixtures, and assesses the chances of the NPFL's representatives in African club competitions.
Reigning champions Plateau United are set to make their CAF Champions League debut against Eding Sport of Cameroon on Sunday, where they'll be hoping to capitalise on the troubled state of affairs at their opponents.
The Elite One title holders are managerless ahead of their debut in the competition, and their internal crisis makes them vulnerable
Despite their relative inexperience, Plateau United should be confident of transferring their impressive domestic league form - they have a 100% record at home - into continental competition.
Their quest for a convincing win on Sunday has been aided further by the return of the trio of Dele Ajiboye, Daniel Itodo James and Peter Eneji from their African Nations Championship participation with Nigeria.
Coach Kennedy Boboye isn't concerned by his team's inexperience, but is banking on their work ethic and home form to see them through.
"This year, we have been working hard and it is also good that the season started early enough, which has given us good match practice ahead of our CAF Champions League match against Eding Sport," the Plateau United coach told CAF Online.
MFM FC, NPFL runners-up last season, are away to AS Real Bamako at the Complex Sportif Hèrèmakono - it represents a testing maiden CAF CL assignment for the new boys.
The church-sponsored team have failed to sign a reliable goalscorer to replace the departed Stephen Odey, and are banking on inexperienced youngsters Adebayo Waheed and Jesse Akila to compensate for the Switzerland-bound frontman's goals.
They've worryingly failed to get off the mark on the road in the league, losing all four away games this season.
Perhaps drawing some inspiration from Rivers United's draw on this ground last year, midfielder Chukwuka Onuwa remains optimistic of pulling off a major coup in Bamako, despite his side's shaky form on the road.
"It's our first game in the competition and we intend to start on a positive note," the pint-sized playmaker revealed to Complete Sports Nigeria.
"Nobody gave us a chance in the league last season but we finished second and pushed Plateau United till end.
"We will show the same spirit in the Champions League and hopefully things will go well for us again."
Finally, Akwa United make a return to the CAF Confederation Cup two years after their elimination at the hands of Vita Club Mokanda at the same stage.
The Promise Keepers are hosts to Banjul Hawks of The Gambia at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.
United could be Nigeria's best bet for a long run in continental competition this term, and ought to be too strong for their Gambian opponents.
Abdul Maikaba's team have continued their scintillating performances from last year in this season's league, leading the table on the strength of their commanding home form and impressive new signings.
Victor Mbaoma is a man in form, scoring goals at will, and together with the returning Okechukwu Gabriel, Akwa United could run riot against the Banjul Hawks.
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