Gor Mahia are 90 minutes away from clinching a historic ticket to the restructured Caf Champions League group stage when they take on Lobi Stars of Nigeria in their first round, second leg match from 5pm on Saturday at Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium in Enugu state.
Wait! The Kenyan champions, who’ve never reached the last 16 since 1997 when the championship was rebranded, will first have to ensure they avoid defeat of two unanswered goals to protect their 3-1 win posted in the first leg meeting last Sunday at Kasarani.
The Nigerian side, who’ve had to move their matches to Enugu state from their Aper Aku stadium in Makurdi city in Benue State due to its unavailability, utilised the home advantage to overturn a slim 1-0 loss to Cameroon side USM de Loum with a 2-0 score line in the preliminary round last month to reach this round on a 2-1 aggregate.
A similar result will see them see off Gor 3-3 on aggregate thanks to the away goal rule.
The draw for the group stage that starts mid next month, will be held next Friday in Cairo, Egypt.
South African referee Tinyiko Victor will run rings assisted by countrymen Johannes Sello and Athenkosi Ndongeni.
Gor were expected to depart Accra, Ghana – where they had pitched a two-day camp – on Friday in order to have a feel of the pitch in the evening.
K’Ogalo coach Hassan Oktay made clear his objectives in this fixture that stands between him and history in as far as becoming the first coach to lead Gor to the group stage of this new-look continental premier club competition is concerned.
“We are ready, there’s no fear, with the kind of quality at my disposal, everybody knows what to do on the pitch,” he said.
The Turkish-Cypriot-turned-Briton will miss combative midfielder Ernest Wendo who is suspended with two accumulated yellow cards.
Winger Samuel Onyango, who grabbed a brace last Sunday, and Rwandese striker Jacques Tuyisenge are fit for this tie.
Lobi coach Solomon Ogbeide has youthful forwards Alimi Sikiru and Yaya Kone to bank on upfront.
“The players want to redeem themselves, we lost the first leg due to attitude and lack of concentration but playing in familiar territory, something can happen,” he alluded.
Benue state governor Samuel Ortom on Thursday provided free buses to ferry fans to Enugu and fill up the 22,000-capacity AstroTurf Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium.
Meanwhile, Kenyan Fifa referees Peter Waweru (centre) and assistants Gilbert Cheruiyot and Tony Kidiya will officiate the Caf Champions League return leg fixture pitting Tanzanian giants Simba and Zambian outfit Nkana on Sunday in Dar es Salaam.
Nkana is home to Kenyan international duo; defender Musa Mohammed and midfielder Duncan Otieno while former Gor striker Meddie Kagere plays for Wekundu wa Msimbazi who lost 2-1 in Ndola last weekend.