Fidelis Ilechukwu

Fidelis Ilechukwu, Technical Adviser of Plateau United Football Club, says a convincing first leg result against Esperance of Tunisia is key to his team’s CAF Champions League group stage ambition.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Plateau United will host Esperance in the first leg of the second preliminary round on Sunday at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja.

The Jos-based Plateau United are bidding to reach the group stage of the 2022/2023 CAF Champions League for the first time.

North African teams have dominated African football club competitions over the last decade and, during this period, Nigerian teams have repeatedly fallen short when paired against them.

Ilechukwu however told NAN that he was aware of the task before his team as they face their Tunisian counterparts on Sunday.

“Esperance have a huge pedigree as three-time winners of the CAF Champions League, but we will not be intimidated by their pedigree.

“We know it is going to be a tough game coming up against an experienced side with so many records in the CAF Champions League.

“But we are very optimistic of our chances given the efforts we have put in to prepare the team.

“A convincing first leg result will definitely be key for us in our bid to reach the group stage of the CAF Champions League for the first time,” he said.

The coach noted that football was very unpredictable, adding that any result was possible and achievable with the right spirit and approach to the game.

He also assured Nigerians as well as the club’s teeming fans and supporters of the team’s commitment to ensure they work very hard to get a positive result against Esperance.

“We are very much aware of the quality our opponents possess and we know we have no choice but to raise our game a little more if we hope to progress.

“We play a similar pattern and like to dominate possession just like our North African opponents and with the right spirit and strategy, I am very confident that we can beat them to their game,” Ilechukwu said.

NAN reports that Plateau United have tried unsuccessfully to get into the money-spinning group stage on three occasions in the last five years.

The aggregate winners over two legs between Plateau United and Esperance will progress to the group stage of the competition.

To reach the second preliminary round, Plateau United, who finished behind Rivers United FC in the 2021/2022 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), beat Gabonese side ASO Mandji.

They played out a 2-2 draw in Gabon before securing a hard-fought 1-0 win in the second leg at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

NAN also reports that, to rally enough support for the team, the club’s management will throw the gates of the Moshood Abiola Stadium open to all fans on Sunday.(NAN)