Rivers United vs Rayon Sports 3pm
Rayon Sports will be looking to take a step closer to reaching the CAF Confederation Cup group stages for the first time when they lock horns with Nigeria’s River United on Sunday in the playoff round first leg.
The highly anticipated encounter will be played at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt, at 3pm. It will be officiated by Algerian referees.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams that are making their maiden appearance in the playoff round of Africa’s second biggest club competition since it was established in 2004.
The match was initially supposed to be played last weekend but it was postponed by CAF due to the national commemoration week of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi (April 7-13), upon request from Rwanda Football Federation.
After a long and unscrupulous flight to Port Harcourt, which included a three-hour delay at Lagos airport, Rayon Sport safely landed in the Rivers State in the wee hour of Friday night.
With a place in the lucrative group stages for the first time, Rayon Sports coach Djuma Masudi will field the best possible team available to him against a tough opponent, who dropped to the Confederation Cup from the CAF Champions League.
The former Burundi international forward captain Masudi says Rayon Sports can progress to the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup—becoming the first Rwandan club to go that far in any continental competition.
“Our mission is to try to change Rwanda’s poor record in CAF competitions by qualifying to the group stage of this competition. Reaching the group stage will bring a positive impact not only to Rayon Sports but to Rwandan football in general,” said Masudi before the team’s departure on Friday morning.
He added, “We will go into Sunday’s game and try to defend well and if we can get a win or a draw, it would be a good result for us ahead of the return leg. The players are committed and determined to stand up to the challenge over the two legs, there is much at stake.”
“Each of them (players) has shown the desire to put on good performance in Nigeria and depending on our form in the national league matches, I believe we have a good chance if we stick to our game plan and not try do so many things to what we’ve been doing all season,” he explained.
Masudi will miss attacking midfielder Shassir Nahimana, their top scorer with 12 league goals, who didn’t travel with the team due to illness. Also missing is center back Abdoul Rwatubyaye, who is yet to get CAF license as well as Ange Mutsinzi (suspension).
The return leg will be staged on April 22 at Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali and the overall winner will proceed to the group stages, and assured to pocket at least $275,000.
Rayon Sports, who have lost just once in 22 league games and are 11 points clear at the top of the table, dispatched South Sudanese club, Wau Saalam 6-0 over two legs in the preliminary round and then prevailing over Malian club Onze Créateurs in the first round.
Their opponents, Rivers United, who finished second in their maiden campaign the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) last season, crashed out of the Champions League against Sudanese outfit, Al-Merrikh in the second leg 4-0 despite having won the first leg 3-0. They are currently 16th place.
Rayon Sports squad:
Jean Luc ‘Bakame’ Ndayishimiye, Evariste Mutuyimana, Thierry Manzi, Fisto Munezero, Eric Irambona, Gaby Mugabo, François Mugisha, Abouba Sibomana, Pierrot Kwizera, Fabrice Mugeni, Olivier Niyonzima, Savio Dominique Nshuti, Nova Bayama, Djabel Imanishimwe, Kevin Muhire, Moustapha Nsengiyumva, Tidiane Koné and Moussa Camara.