The Nigeria Professional Football League representatives in this year’s CAF champions league, Rangers International and Rivers united will this weekend battle their respective opponents, Zamalek of Egypt and El Merreikh of Sudan for a place in the group stage of this year’s competition.
While Rangers international arrived in Egypt on Friday morning for the first leg encounter against Zamalek which will hold at the Cairo stadium this Sunday, Rivers united will be at home to Al Merriekh on the same day in Port Harcourt.
Going into this fixtures both teams faced each other in a derby in the NPFL last weekend at the Yakubu Gowon stadium in Port Harcourt. Rivers united came out victorious in the encounter thanks to an Esosa Igbinoba goal which ensured a 1-0 win over the champions. While Rivers are safe in the 12th position in the middle of the table, the same cannot be said of Rangers who are swimming in relegation waters, in the 17th position.
Both Nigerian teams had to negotiate past their respective opponents in the preliminary round of qualifiers to secure a place in the first round the first leg of qualifiers which will be underway across Africa this weekend. Rivers united comfortably dispatched their Malian opponents in the preliminary round, AS Real Bamako with a 4-0 aggregate scoreline. The NPFL 2016 runners-up played a scoreless draw in Mali before dispatching their opponents 4-0 in Port Harcourt with Esosa Igbinoba and Bernard Ovoke scoring a brace each in the encounter.
However Rangers needed a bit of luck against Js Soura of Algeria to qualify, the flying antelopes secured a 1-1 draw in Algeria, Bobby Clement’s strike was all the NPFL champions needed to qualify for the next round on away goals rule, after a scoreless draw at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in the return leg.
Meanwhile Rangers opponents Zamalek were drawn bye into the next round but Al Merriekh had to get the better of Sony Ela Nguema of Equatorial Guinea defeating the Equatorians on both legs to record a 5-1 aggregate scoreline.
In the meantime, CAF has selected Egyptian referee Ghead Grisha for the match between Rivers and Al Merriekh in Port Harcourt while Daniel Bennett of South Africa will be the man in the middle of the match between Zamalek and Rangers in Cairo.
The second legs of the encounters will be held on the weekend of 17th to the 19th of this month and the winners of the encounter across both legs will secure a place among the 16 available slots for the group stage.
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