Keen rivalry between Nigerian and South African teams would yet come to the fore on Friday at the Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium in Enugu where Lobi Stars of Makurdi entertain Mamelodi Sundowns in the Round of 1/16th Total CAF Champions’ League Match Day 1 Group A tie.
Incidentally, Mamelodi Sundowns have won all but one of their four previous CAF Champions League confrontations against Nigerian sides including victories over two legs recorded against Enyimba en route to being crowned the continental champions in 2016.
Earlier in 2001, Sundowns lost 2-0 away to Julius Berger in Lagos but rallied to a 1-0 home win in Johannesburg as such, Lobi Stars’ defender Solomon Kwambe admitted the self-styled Brazilians of South Africa can’t be handled with kid’s gloves.
“Of course, we know so much about Mamelodi Sundowns and they are a team that we can’t take for granted because of their reputation,” the 25-year-old Kwambe told CAFOnline.com
“ Just on Saturday, we saw their game when they beat Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 in their domestic league match and that means we must prepare very well playing against them; especially since this is our first game in the group stage.
“It is important for us to win this particular encounter against Mamelodi Sundowns to boost our confidence because we have two other strong teams in our group; a win will be a good start for us and we can build upon it for our other matches.”
Kwambe, a member of the Super Eagles squad to the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) hosted by South Africa informed he would be sharing tips on how to deal with the visitors with his teammates.
“We know so much about South African teams and I was lucky to have played against the Bafana Bafana at the 2013 Nelson Mandela Challenge where we beat them 2-0 and also in 2014 when we beat them 3-1 in the CHAN Tournament,” explains Kwambe. “ So, I have an idea about South African teams; I know Mamelodi Sundowns’ style of play may not be too different from any South African team and we shall be ready for them on Friday in Enugu.
“Playing in Enugu has been a blessing to Lobi Stars because we have won all our home matches there and I’m expecting the fans to come and cheer us to victory against Mamelodi Sundowns on Friday.”
Meanwhile, former Nigeria international and Lobi Stars’ Team Manager, Barnabas Imenger said the West African side have so far enjoyed support from fans and government officials which would boost their aspiration of going beyond the group stage of the CAF Champions League.
“Of course, we at Lobi Stars go into every game with the objective to win either we are at home or away,” Imenger who played in the 1990s for the Super Eagles told CAFOnline.com
“The match on Friday against Mamelodi Sundowns would not be different; we respect as a former African champions but our priority is to take the three points.
In a related development ahead of the trip to Nigeria, Mamelodi Sundowns’ trainer Pitso Mosimane has hinted about the club’s game plan to ensure qualification from the dreaded Group A that also housed two other former African Champions including ASEC Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco.
“The most important thing in the Champions League is winning at home,” Mosimane reportedly said on the club’s website. “You must also make sure that in the three games away; you at least get two draws. If you do that, you’re guaranteed qualification in the knockout stage.
“The best thing you can do is winning at home. We have to win at home. With how our games are structured, we’re going to play Wydad in our last match of the group. You don’t want to get to that match needing to get a result.
“You have to do what you need to do as early as possible. You’ve got to have a good start and hit the ground running with your home games,” he explained.