By James Agberebi:
Former Emily Rangers coach, Lawrence Akpokona, says the Flying Antelopes have nothing to fear in their CAF Champions League First Round clashes against Egyptian giants, Zamalek, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
Rangers booked a place in the First Round of the CAF Champions League after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Jeunesse Sportive de Saoura of Algeria in their Preliminary Round, second leg tie at the Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium on Sunday. The first leg ended 1-1.
Zamalek were finalists at last year's CAF Champions League where they lost 3-1 on aggregate to South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns.
Commenting on the pairing between Rangers and Zamalek, Akpokona advises that the players of the current Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions should emulate the feat of their 2003 predecessors who thrashed Al Ahly 4-0 in the now defuncted CAF Cup.
"Zamalek are not invincible. I remember there was a year Al Ahly went to Enugu and Rangers beat them 4-0 and the return leg in Cairo ended 0-0," Akpokona tells Completesportsnigeria.com.
"For me, it depends on the Rangers players' mentality and their mindset. Zamalek only have 11 players so there is nothing to fear. If Rangers prepare very well, there is no need to fear any opposition."
And Akpokona advises firmly: "I will advise that Rangers prepare most especially, the mental state of the players because the North Africans will apply every trick both on and off the pitch to frustrate you."
Akpokona whose Rangers team failed to qualify for the final of the 2005 Confederation Cup after losing out on head-to-head to Ghana's Ashanti Kotoko, praises Rivers United for their qualfication for the First Round of the CAF Champions League.
He however urges the Port Harcourt-based club to prepare very well ahead of their clash against Sudan's Al-Merreikh which he describes as a tough team on the continent.
"Rivers United's result was a bit surprising to me because I know Real Bamako a very long time," he says.
"When I learnt they played 0-0 away in the first leg, I was scared for them because if AS Real Bamako had scored here, Rivers United would have been in trouble. But I was very happy for them.
"In the next round, they will meet another tricky opponent in Al-Merreikh of Sudan. This is a team that is very experienced on the continent who have the resources to do well. They have been participating in the continental competitions for like eternity.
"So I will urge Rivers United to make sure they prepare very well because that is the key for them to stand a chance of qualifying for the next round."