CAF Champions League: Lobi Stars to boost squad ahead of group stage

Mike Idoko, the Vice-Chairman, Lobi Stars Football Club, on Friday in Abuja said the club was set to boost the squad’s depth ahead of the CAF Champions League group stage slated for January 19.

Mike Idoko, the Vice-Chairman, Lobi Stars Football Club, on Friday in Abuja said the club was set to boost the squad’s depth ahead of the CAF Champions League group stage slated for January 19.
The Nigeria Professional Football League side will begin their group stage campaign on January 11, hosting Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu.
Lobi eliminated Cameroon’s UMS de Loum 2-1 aggregate at the preliminary stage, and Gor Mahia 3-3 on away goal rules in the first round to qualify for the group stage.
In their second group stage experience in the CAF Champions League, the Makurdi-based club side will carry the heavy weight of a nation in the elite competition – and in all continental club competitions.
The last time a Nigerian club delivered an African trophy was 14 years ago, when Enyimba successfully defended the CAF Champions League, whose jinx the Orji Uzor Kalu-inspired team broke for the country the previous season.
In reaching the group stage this time, Lobi Stars became only the 15th Nigerian side to land in that lucrative section of the competition in 10 years.
Idoko told NAN that the Pride of Benue or Ortom Boys, as Lobi Stars are known, had concluded plans to acquire players in preparation for the Champions League group stage and defence of their domestic league title.
He said the technical crew had identified the critical holes to be plugged in the team ahead of their clash against the South Africans.
He said: “We are thankful to God for allowing us to scale through to the group stage of the CAF Champions League.
“We have got one of the hurdles out of the way and we are glad that has been settled.
“We are going to do a lot before the start of the group stage, including registering four new players.
“We have got the input of the technical crew and we are working on ensuring that we get the players that they have asked for.”
NAN also reports that Wydad Casablanca of Morocco will play ASEC Mimosas of Cote d’ Ivoire at home in the other fixture in group A.
Heartland and Kano Pillars clashed in the semi final of the 2009 edition with the former smashing their compatriots 5-0 aggregate, but losing the showpiece double-header 2-2 on away goal rule to DR Congo’s TP Mazembe.
Two of Lobi Stars’ group stage opponents had stopped Nigerian teams in the last decade in the competition.
In 2011, Wydad Casablanca eliminated Enyimba 1-0 aggregate in the semi-finals, a double jeopardy for Nigeria, whose other entry in that competition, Kano Pillars, had lost to the same Moroccan team 2-0 in the first round.
On their way to the semifinals, however, Enyimba had kicked Wydad’s city rivals, Raja Casablanca of Morocco, out of the tournament in the group stage.
Mamelodi Sundowns, the South African club that Lobi Stars will host to start their group stage campaign, won the group in which Enyimba finished third in 2016.
Enyimba lost the first leg 1-2 in Pretoria and won 3-1 in Port Harcourt, the only victory for the People’s Elephant at the group stage.
NPFL side, Sunshine Stars, reached the semi-finals in 2012 but lost to a North African opposition and eventual champions, Al-Ahly of Egypt, 4-3.
ASEC Mimosas are yet to encounter any Nigerian team in the CAF Champions League in the last decade and will be looking forward with anticipation when they clash with Lobi Stars on match day two on January 19.
NAN.
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