Nigeria’ sole representative in the second tier continental club competition, Total/CAF Confederation cup and six-time national club champions, Rangers International F.C hopes to continue its very bright start on the continent as Algerian club champions, Union Sportive Madinet Bel Abbes (USMBA) come visiting to the ‘Cathedral’, Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium, Enugu, Sunday, December 23, 2018.
The decisive second leg, first round encounter which will see the aggregate winner pick a ticket to the next round of the competition is expected to be explosive as the earlier encounter in the coastal city of Bel Abbes, ended goalless note.
Rangers’ coaches and players, since their arrival from Algeria have not kept anyone in doubt on its desires in this weekend’ make or break encounter.
Tope Olusesi who has captained the team in the last three continental outings said of the encounter, “The Algerian side is a good team and I believe that we gave our very best in the first leg in Algeria and we shall not take them for granted as we play the second leg. They will come fighting like wounded lions but we shall contain them and do the needful to qualify for the next round. We, the players, coaches and management know what is at stake and hope to deliver the goods on Sunday. I urge the fans to rally round the team as they remain our source of inspirations by cheering us all the way till the end of the encounter. Motivation has been on the high for us from management and government just as the will to succeed within the team is strong. There is no cause for alarm as we fear no foe.”
Also, Ghanaian shot stopper, Nana Bonsu, who has posted two clean sheets in three continental games under his belt, was more philosophical in his response going into this encounter as he said, “Firstly, we give thanks to almighty God who has made the results possible just as I won’t fail to appreciate my parents who are always in prayers for me as well as the supporters of Rangers that have always been there for us. The self belief and unity in the team will surely see us through this game with USMBA. I pray that our opponents arrive safely in Enugu just as I urge our fans to come in their numbers to sing us to another great victory. They are a good side but we have what it takes to earn the win that will take us to the next round.”
The Algerian 35-man delegation are already in town as they flew directly into the coal city via Air Algeria and safely housed at the luxury, Golden Royal Hotel but have been going about their business for the encounter quietly.
Coach Olugbenga Ogunbote will be banking on the defensive quartet of Isaac Loute, Tope Olusesi, Akpos Adubi and Semiu Liadi to provide enough cover for Bonsu Nana who is expected to continue his excellent performance between the sticks while welcoming back defensive midfield maestro, Ugonna Uzochukwu and Ugochukwu Ugwuoke back to the fold to hold down the middle of the pack and supply the ammunitions for Bright Silas, Ajani Ibrahim and Kelvin Itoya to bring down the resistance of the Algerians.
· Rangers will be weary of a certain Mohamed Seguer, who scored a brace against their last opponent from Liberia while Hamza Belahouel and Nabil Lamara would need close monitoring just as their reliable man between the sticks, Abdelwahab Sofiane Khedairia, would require a lot of trickery to be breached.
The encounter fixed for the main bowl of Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium is expected to be handled by FIFA badge Senegalese referee, Issa Sy ably assisted by countrymen, Serigne Cheikh Toure and Nouha Bangura with the match commissioner coming from Cameroon and referees’ assessor finding his way from Gambia.
In navigating its way to this round of the competition, Rangers overcame Ethiopian cup champions, Defense Force S.C, 5-1 on aggregate after doing a double over the East Africans while their opponent, USMBA eased past Liberian side, LISCR, 4-1 on aggregate, winning by four un-replied goals in the first leg but fell 1-0 in the return leg in Monrovia.
The winner of this round qualifies for the 2nd 1/16th round of the competition where teams that fail to make the group stage of the more glamorous CAF Champions league will be waiting.
POSSIBLE LINE UP FOR BOTH TEAMS:
RANGERS: Nana Bonsu, Femi Thomas, Tope Olusesi, Isaac Loute, Ugonna Uzochukwu, Akpos Adubi, Semiu Liadi, Bright Silas, Chiamaka Madu, Ajani Ibrahim, Godwin Aguda, Godwin Zaki, Ugochukwu Ugwuoke, Pape Ousmane Sane, Solomon Okpako, Kelvin Itoya, Ifeanyi George, Okey Odita and Onyedika Ogbuke.
USMBA: Adbelwahab Soufiane Khedairia, Abderrahim Abdelli, Nasreddine Benlabna, Boualem Masmoudi, Ishak Guebli, Mohammed Legraa, Abdessamed Bounoua, Larbi Tabti, Mouloud Metref, Ishak Bouda, Mourad Benayad, Zaarat Abdelkader, Anes Abdel Illah Abbas, Fatah Achour, Samir Zerrouki, Sid Ahmed Abbaci, Sid Ahmed El Mahi and Ameur Bouguetaya.