04.01.2021 07:00 h

Enyimba prepare for CAF Champions League damage repair mission

Enyimba of Nigeria will try Wednesday to repair the damage inflicted by Seifeldin Malik, whose hat-trick propelled Al Merrikh of Sudan to a 3-0 CAF Champions League last 32 first leg victory.

It is the second time the club from southeastern city Aba have faced such a deficit in the elite African competition, and are hoping for a more successful outcome.

Enyimba suffered a 4-1 loss away to ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast in a 2002 qualifier and a 3-1 home victory was insufficient to avoid elimination.

Here, AFP Sport puts the spotlight on five intriguing return matches as clubs seek overall victories, group places, and a minimum payout of $550,000 (450,000 euros).

Ghana-born Enyimba midfielder Farouk Mohammed has not given up hope of a spectacular second leg comeback that would require his team to score at least three times to have any chance of survival.

"The heavy loss we suffered in Sudan comes once in a while. Even the strongest clubs sometimes suffer such defeats. Now, so much depends on how we react to it," he said.

A 3-0 victory for Enyimba after 90 minutes would take the tie straight to a penalty shootout, but if Merrikh score just once in Nigeria, the hosts will need five goals to survive.

Stade Malien of Mali take a tenuous 1-0 lead to Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, who have won the Champions League, finished runners-up, and been semi-finalists twice in the past five seasons.

The Bamako outfit were the last west African club to win a CAF competition, defeating Entente Setif of Algeria on penalties in the 2009 CAF Confederation Cup final.

But Stade have fared poorly in the Champions League, never reaching the group stage, and will rely heavily on star forward Mamadou Coulibaly if they are to shock Wydad.

Famed South African club Kaizer Chiefs have won only three of 14 matches this season in all competitions, and one of those successes was away to PWD Bamenda in the Champions League preliminary round.

That result will offer some hope to coach Gavin Hunt and his underperforming team, which includes Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, Kenya midfielder Anthony Akumu and Zimbabwe forward Khama Billiat.

Primeiro Agosto of Angola, who forced a 0-0 draw in Soweto last month, have been inconsistent Champions League participants, reaching the 2018 semi-finals, but falling at the first hurdle the following year.

Simba of Tanzania caused the biggest shock of the preliminary round by ousting Plateau United of Nigeria thanks to a first-leg goal from Zambian Clatous Chama in west Africa.

One round later and the situation is reversed as they must overcome a 1-0 deficit when they host Platinum of Zimbabwe in Dar es Salaam, where spectators will be permitted despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Platinum have reached the group stage in the last two seasons and will be encouraged by the form of Perfect Chikwende, the first leg match-winner.

A seven-minute Samy Frioui brace has tilted this north African showdown in favour of Mouloudia Alger of Algeria as they take a 2-0 lead to CS Sfaxien of Tunisia.

Frioui has scored three goals in Africa this season, one less than Firas Chaouat, whose total includes a hat-trick away to Mlandege of Zanzibar in the previous round.

Both clubs have experienced African success with Mouloudia winning the 1976 African Cup of Champions Clubs (forerunner to the Champions League) and Sfaxien lifting the Confederation Cup three times and the CAF Cup once.