Akwa United manager, Abdu Maikaba, says his team face a ‘difficult task’ after they were handed a tough opposition in the CAF Confederation Cup draw for the final preliminary round held on Wednesday.
With a place in the group stages up for grabs, Akwa were one of four Nigerian club sides in the draw, with the Promise Keepers pitted against Sudanese giants, Al Hilal.
CAF Confederation Cup: Akwa Utd to battle Al Hilal
Akwa United Football Club of Nigeria will engage Al Hilal of Sudan in the playoff round of the 2018 CAF Confederation Cup competition next month.
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At the… https://t.co/dVREzxdXdo
— Akwa United FC (@AkwaUnited_fc) March 21, 2018
Speaking to aclsports.com, Maikaba says his side have it all to do against a difficult Al Hilal, who dropped from Champions League after losing to Togolese champions, AS Togo-Port, on away goals rule.
“I believe we have a draw that is a little difficult task,” Maikaba said. “But we will work very hard towards scaling that hurdle.
Having defeated the side from Gambia, Banjul Hawks, after losing the first leg at home, the Aiteo Cup winner says his side must work hard as they are up against a ‘good’ side, with ‘history’.
” We know Al Hilal of Sudan are a very good side, and have history in the competition. Nevertheless, we will work so hard, as I earlier said, to make sure we scale the hurdle.”
Akwa are away in Sudan for the first leg, with the second leg scheduled for Uyo, Akwa Ibom. Asked if playing the second leg at home gives his side an advantage, the former Wikki Tourist coach said;
“Even if it has an advantage, it is very little. It’s what you need to do as a team- to work hard, you can get your result irrespective of where you start or play your second leg.
“We have done it against the Gambian side, started and lost at home, but we were able to overcome the result. So, you have to be determined, that’s the most important thing, and plan properly on how to get things right.”
Akwa’s opponents are 12th on the log in their domestic league, albeit having played five games fewer than the rest. But Maikaba says their league form has no bearings in the continent
“No two games and competitions are the same,” he added. “You can be doing well in one competition, and doing bad in another. So, that (Hilal’s league position) won’t give us any advantage.
“The only that thing that can give us an advantage is to plan properly, have an idea of the team and get a good result. That’s the only thing that can help us.”
Meanwhile, there are three other Nigerian clubs also competing for honours in CAF’s second tier competition, Enyimba, Mountain of Fires and Miracles, MFM, and NPFL champions, Plateau United.
Al Hilal 🇸🇩 vs AKWA UNITED
PLATEAU UNITED vs 🇩🇿USM Alger
Bidvest Wits 🇿🇦 vs ENYIMBA
MFM FC vs 🇲🇱Djoliba
1st leg: April 6, 7 or 8
2nd leg: April 17 or 18
— League Management NG (@LMCNPFL) March 21, 2018
While Maikaba believes all the clubs representing the country can progress, he was quick to (re-)emphasise the need for proper planning and preparation.
“Enyimba can scale the hurdle, but they have to try their possible best to get a result away from home. MFM have the best draw of Nigerian clubs, they face a Malian side, [and] fortunately, they played one of their games against a team from Mali. So, they know the terrain and that will help them.”
On Plateau, he says they have already played a side from North Africa in Etoile du Sahel, with a similar style as their next opponent, UCM Alger, but should also contact MFM for tips on facing a side from Algeria.
The winners of this round will go straight into the group stage, and Maikaba concludes; “With proper planning, I believe all Nigerian clubs can move into the group stage.”
The first leg matches come up on the weekend of April 7, with the second leg games set for ten days later.