BY APESIN ADEMOLA
Lobi Stars will step out at Stade Prince Moulay Abdallah to see how well they can revive their hope of progressing to the quarterfinals of this season’s CAF Champions League. After only one win in three group matches, the Pride of Benue lie in third position, three points off the qualifying zone.
The devastating effects of their home defeat to tonight’s opponents Wydad Casablanca should ring in the ears of Solomon Ogbeide’s squad and spur them to get result in this all-important fixture.
After three matches, Lobi Stars have collected only three points as against six by log leaders Wydad and South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Nigerian champions are poor travellers having lost all their away matches in the competition: 1-2 to Cameroon’s UMS de Loum in the premilinary round, 1-3 to Gor Mahia of Kenya in the first round and 0-1 to ASEC Mimosas of Côte d’Ivoire on Matchday 2 of the group stage.
Given the poor run of Nigerian teams against north African opposition, this is a match to dread for Lobi Stars, who will however be buoyed by the return to action of left back Chidiebube Duru from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of the first leg against Wydad.
Reflecting on that loss to their Moroccan guests in Enugu, Duru told Goal, “we have realised what we did wrong at home and are expecting a positive result in Casablanca because we have prepared very well for the game and have corrected the mistakes noticed in our last game with them.
“I am happy that I have overcome my injury worries and looking forward to helping my team against Wydad Casablanca. We do not expect an easy game and we are going to give our hosts a big push for the three points.”
In the other match of the group, ASEC Mimosas will strive to pay Mamelodi Sundowns in their own coins having lost the earlier game 1-3 in Johannesburg.
Sundowns have been in Abidjan since Thursday to acclimatise and be adequately prepared for the task ahead. That gives them confidence that they will be the first team to score against Mimosas at home in this season’s Champions League.
In Group C, the re-entry of Ismaily has thrown up new challenges for the teams involved here. CAF announced earlier in the week that the Egyptian side won their appeal against their earlier expulsion from the competition on account of crowd troubles.
That restored Ismaily’s matches with DR Congo’s TP Mazembe and Club Africain of Tunisia with the latter now heading the group on superior goal difference over Algeria’s CS Constantine. Both clubs now have six points each as against three by Club Africain and none for Ismaily.
CAF is yet to announce when Ismaily’s outstanding matches will be played.
Meanwhile, Club Africain host Mazembe with the aim of winning their second match of the group stage and drawing level on points with their opponents and CS Constantine.
In Group B, title holders Espérance and Orlando Pirates go head-to-head in Tunis in a battle of the frontrunners. Both teams lead the other pair – Horoya and FC Platinum, who also face themselves – by two points.
Veteran title winners Al-Ahly are away to Simba in Dar-es-Salam and will stay on top of Group D if they avoid defeat to the team they walloped 5-0 in the first leg.
Vita Club, who travel to Algeria to face JS Saoura, queue behind Al-Ahly who are three points better.
Matchday 4 fixtures
- Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) v Lobi Stars (Nigeria) (first leg Wydad Casablanca 1-0) (8pm)
- ASEC Mimosas (Côte d’Ivoire) v Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) (first leg Mamelodi Sundowns 3-1) (5pm)
- Espérance (Tunisia) v Orlando Pirates (South Africa) (first leg 0-0)
- Horoya (Guinea) v FC Platinum (Zimbabwe) (first leg Horoya 1-0) (both 2pm)
- Club Africain (Tunisia) v TP Mazembe (DR Congo) (first leg TP Mazembe 8-0) (5pm)
- Simba (Tanzania) v Al-Ahly (Egypt) (first leg Al-Ahly 5-0) (2pm)
- JS Saoura (Algeria) v AS Vita Club (DR Congo) (first leg 2-2) (8pm)