Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) powerhouses Enyimba and Rangers International are set to feature in the playoff stage of this season’s CAF Confederation Cup.
Enyimba’s drop from the CAF Champions League to the CAF Confederation Cup is disappointing for a team that is widely backed to claim the biggest club football prize on the continent this season.
Nevertheless, the People’s Elephant have been offered another route to win a continental title for the first time in 16 years, albeit in the CAF Confederation Cup. The eight-time NPFL champions have been drawn against South African second tier side, TS Galaxy in the playoff stage of the competition, usually the stage that precedes the round-robin group stage.
Enyimba go into the tie against TS Galaxy having scored five goals in four CAF Champions matches this season, but all these goals came in just one of the four matches played this season, albeit against a 10-man Rahimo FC in Aba. Meanwhile, the Aba-based side have recorded just two wins in their last 41 away competitive matches – both wins coming against Energie FC and Djoliba FC during their CAF Confederation Cup campaign in 2018. The stats further appear unfavourable to the People’s Elephant as they averaged one goal in every two away games during the spell while letting in one goal per game.
This poor record is, perhaps, best attributed to a mental block for Enyimba’s players and less about the question of the quality they possess.
Pressure, fear and absence of fans (usually in away fixtures) have been said to be major factors leading to players’ mental block. This is a challenge for the team’s coaching crew to solve.
Moreover, the Aba-based side make up for the lapses in away matches with a decent home form that comprises of 11 wins from 16 matches since their celebrated return to Enyimba International Stadium in August 2018.
Being drawn against a second division side in South Africa may seem an easy draw for Enyimba on paper, but the Nigerian club have struggled against teams from the country – winning just two of their previous eight CAF-organized matches against South African clubs.
Enyimba head coach Usman Abd’Allah is apparently aware of this unenviable record as he expects his team to leave no stone unturned in a bid to avoid an eventual end to their continental campaign this season.