Nigeria’s heavyweight and dependable representatives on the continent, Enyimba, got past an in-form local rivals, Rivers United to book a CAF Confederations Cup ticket.
While the Aba Elephants were knocked out of the CAF Champions League by Sudanese side El Merriekh on 4-2 on aggregate.
Rivers United on the other hand were having a fantastic dive in the qualifying waters having drown royals Futuro kings of Equatorial Guinea and South African side Bloem Celtics in the preliminary rounds.
It was always going to be difficult for Nigerian fans to see two formidable sides, who could fight for continental trophies, rather reduced to slug it out for group stage spots.
Meet Enyimba’s Group A Opponents
Fought on the land and in the waters, the battle was tough but the Elephants could not be stopped.
After the first leg and second leg ended 1-0 on both occasion in favour of both sides the luck of penalties was needed and the Elephants went through unscathed.
It doesn’t get easier for the People’s Elephant who have been drawn alongside two North African sides and a South African club.
Nick : The Black Eagles
Country : Algeria
Founded : 1958
Stadium : Stade 8 Mai 1945
Capacity : 25,000
Best Performance in CC : 4 appearances, 1 finalists.
You can’t play in any CAF competition and avoid a North African side, especially when it is either of the club competition.
This time it is Algerian side ES Setif for the Aba Elephants, the Black Eagles, not the strongest or toughest North African side and not the easiest either.
Es Setif has not win this competition before but the club has had a single final appearance but the club has won the CAF Champions League in 1988 and 2014.
The team currently sit in the summit of the Algerian top flight after 14 games but they got past Ghanaian side Asante Kotoko 2-1 on aggregate in the final qualifying round.
Enyimba has faced alot of North African sides especially on their way to their back to back CAF Champions League triumphs in 2003 and 2004 and Hassana Agadir in the group stage of last season’s CAF Confederations Cup but they have never faced ES Setif.
The first clash between both sides is on the 4th of April at the Enyimba International Stadium in Aba.
Nick : Buccaneers
Country : South Africa
Founded : 1937
Stadium : Orlando Stadium
Capacity : 37, 139
Best Performance in CC : 2 appearances
Here is a rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa reignited by the Sea Robbers and the Elephants. Enyimba should be familiar with the water having crossed a united Rivers.
The South Africans are former CAF Champions League winners but the triumph was in 1996 albeit they got to the final in 2013.
Nevertheless, they have to worry about the Nigerian who are formidable opponents any day, they could ask Celtics how the journey from the South to the West was.
For Enyimba they have to worry about the Pirates who third in the DSTV Premiership, four points behind first placed Mamelodi Sundown.
The first tie between both sides is on the 17th of March at the Orlando Stadium.
Both teams last faced each other in the 2006 CAF Champions league with Pirates winning 1-0 in South Africa and getting a draw in Nigeria in the group stages.
AL Ahly Benghazi
Nick : The Butchers
Country : Libya
Founded : 1947
Stadium : March 28 Stadium
Capacity : 55,000
Best Performance in CC : 1 appearance
The North Africans are always in excess in CAF Competitions and this time Enyimba has a Libyan side for company aside the Algerians.
Both sides would be facing each other in their respective first games of the tournament of this season.
The Libyans who look like the weakest team of the group but nevertheless they deserve some respects after getting past DR Congo’s Motema Pembe in the final qualifying round.
They also held their own against Esparance of Tunisia in the CAF Champions League qualification round before losing out 3-2 in the second leg.
AL Ahly Benghazi also has two wins from 2 games in the Libyan Premier League this season.
They have never met the Nigerians before hence the game on the 10th of March will be tricky to decide.
Irrespective of the caliber of their opponents, Enyimba knows how to navigate the group stage of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup.
The other three times they have played in the completion, the Aba Elephants have managed to go past the group stages.
They even reached the semifinals in 2018 before losing to Raja Casablanca while last season appearance ended in the Quarter finals in the hands of AC Horoya.
Fatai Osho led team has been spectaclar this season and they have enough experience to beat Pirates and AL Ahly Bhengazi at home and get draws away to both teams.
ES Setif seems the toughest but two points away from the Algerians shouldn’t be bad and should be enough to move them into the Knockout stages.