The African Champions League kicks off this weekend with former title holders Enyimba facing a tricky tie.
The Nigerian side take on relatively weak and inexperienced opponents, Buffles Borgou of Benin, BBC reports. Enyimba, continental champions in 2003 and 2004, were expected to go far in the competition last year. But they lost at home to Real Bamako of Mali and a second leg recovery could not prevent an early exit. Coach Kadiri Ikhana, who also coached the 2003 Champions League-winning team, believes that disastrous campaign is now behind them. He said: “I am confident that we will do better than last year and progress very far in the Champions League this time. “However, we must be careful not to underrate Buffles. The key is to prepare adequately so that we are not taken by surprise. “There are no small teams in the Caf club competitions and we must treat our opponents seriously in order to achieve a good result. “It is a good tie for us because of the limited travel involved,” said Ikhana, referring to Benin and Nigeria being west African neighbours. Enyimba prepared for the Champions League by playing in a six-team domestic tournament as the national league has not kicked off. Kano Pillars, the other half of a twin-pronged Nigerian challenge for the biggest prize in African club football, tackle Al-Malakia in South Sudan. The northern club are guided by Okey Emordi, coach of Enyimba when they retained the Champions League title in 2004. It is 20 years since Orlando Pirates became the only South African winners of the competition. Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns believe they can go all the way this year. “We have a team that can compete against anybody in the world,” boasted Chiefs official Bobby Motaung ahead of a home game against Township Rollers from Botswana. Sundowns are away to Saint Michel United in the Seychelles and coach Pitso Mosimane has high hopes of bettering second place in 2001 behind Egyptians Al Ahly. “I want to win the Champions League, the club president (Patrice Motsepe) wants to win it, the players want to win it, and our supporters want us to win it,” said Mosimane. An attractive east African fixture pits Azam, who ended the Young Africans and Simba’s monopoly of the Tanzanian title last year, against vastly experienced Sudanese visitors El-Merrikh.