Rivers United vs Rayon Sports
Rayon Sports will be looking to make history when they face off with Nigeria Premier League side Rivers United in the playoff round first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup.
The team was due to depart for Nigeria today ahead of the game which is scheduled to take place at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt on Sunday. The return leg will be played on April 22 at Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali and the winner of the tie will qualify for the CAF Confederation Cup group stages.
The match was initially supposed to be played last weekend, but it was postponed by CAF upon the request from Rwanda Football Federation as Rwanda was observing the commemoration week of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi (April 7-13).
Rayon Sports are the current Peace Cup holders and are making their first appearance in the playoff round since the new look continental showpiece was established in 2004. If they win they progress they will become the first Rwandan club to make it to the lucrative Confederation Cup group stages.
It will be the first meeting between the two teams.
This is also a maiden continental outing for the two-year old Rivers United, who finished second in their debut season (2015/16) in the Nigerian topflight league.
Rivers United were set up as a merger of two clubs; Sharks F.C and Dolphins F.C, both owned by the Rivers State Government of Nigeria.
Before the merger, Dolphins FC were one of the most successful clubs in Nigeria, having won the Nigeria Premier League title on three occasions in 1997, 2004 and 2011, as well as the Federation Cup four times; in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007.
However, in their second season, the Port Harcourt-based side are having a very dismal run of form. They are currently 16th on the 20-team league table, with 21 points from 16 matches, the same tally as relegation-threatened Wikki FC and Sunshine Stars, who have played one game more.
Rivers United have managed five wins and six draws losing five leagues games. They reached the playoff round after crashing out of the Champions League against Sudanese outfit Al-Merrikh in the second leg 4-0 despite having won the first leg 3-0.
Rivers focus on Confed Cup
Meanwhile, Rivers United Technical manager, Stanley Eguma, says his side is confident they will make a huge impression on the CAF Confederation Cup.
Eguma was quoted in the Nigerian media as saying that they have put the setback (dropping from Champions League) behind them and have now set their sights firmly on success in Africa’s second biggest club competition.
“We had high hopes of doing well in the CAF Champions League, particularly after we defeated Al Merreikh 3-0 in Port Harcourt (in the first leg of the first round),” said Eguma.
“It is a pity we could not hold on to that lead in the second leg in Omdurman but we will learn from it. Now, we want to focus on doing well in the Caf Confederation Cup, a competition no Nigerian club has ever won,” he added.
Eguma said a resounding win on Sunday in Port Harcourt is the target but acknowledged that achieving the feat will not be easy. “We know that the only way to assure ourselves of progress into the group stage is to win and win well in Port Harcourt.
“The second leg is in Rwanda so it gives them an advantage but we will try to get a comprehensive victory in the first leg.
“Rayon Sports is a very good side and they have lost just once in 22 league games in Rwanda so we must show them respect,” he said.
On the other hand, Djuma Masudi’s Rayon Sports, who are 11 points clear at the top of the league table, will be hoping to take advantage of their opponents’ poor form.
Rayon Sports thrashed South Sudanese club Wau Saalam 6-0 over two legs in the preliminary round before prevailing over Malian club Onze Créateurs in the first round of the competition.
“This is a life-time chance for the team to record the biggest milestone in the history of this club, going by our form in the national league and how the players have responded in training, I’m hopeful we can get a positive away result,” Masudi said after the final training session at Mumena stadium in Kigali on Thursday.
The former Rayon Sports and Burundi captain added: “From what we know about our opponents they have had a poor run of games at their home ground; however, that does not mean that we can afford to underestimate them, they finished second in the Nigerian league last season.”