Sunshine dare champions Esperance
Abe, Sunshine against Recreativo Libolo
The Nigerian club are up against experienced campaigners Esperance, who have won Africa’s foremost club competition twice, in 1994 and 2011, and have featured in the competition in this format 11 times.
The host team, on the other hand, are only taking their bow in the Champions League this year after they debuted at last year’s CAF Confederation Cup, where they reached the semi-final before they lost out to Club Africain of Tunisia.
The Akure club, who have registered three new players including midfielders Sunday Emmanuel and Cletus Itodo, said they wish to follow in the path of another Nigerian club Enyimba, who won this competition back-to-back in 2003 and 2004.
“We have reached the group stage and we want to go beyond that. We know Esperance are a great team, we will approach the game against them with the aim to win it,” Sunshine coach Gbenga Ogunbote told MTNFootball.com
Sunshine stars eliminated Recreativo de Libolo of Angola and Djoliba of Mali to reach the money-spinning stage of the Champions League.
They will rely on on-form striker Dele Olorundare, Itodo and Akombo Ukeyima for goals, while they will be expecting Ofem Inah, Cameroonian Isaac Hele, Nigeria international Godfrey Oboabona to marshal the defence who will be attacked by their opponents.
Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul has said they are gunning for the three points even though he has some concerns about the long trip by commercial flight to Nigeria.
“First game is important in any competition, we are going for victory. It will be tough because Sunshine have some strong players,” he said.
The Tunisian champions, who sent packing Brikama of Gambia and Dynamos of Zimbabwe in the qualifying rounds, will be without the suspended Wajdi Bouazzi and Youssef Belalili, who has yet to recover full match fitness.
Tunisia international striker Youssef Msakni has left for a Qatari club with his coach maintaining he would end up at big spenders Paris Saint-Germain.
There will be live commentary by MTNFootball.com of this CAF Champions League Group A clash between Sunshine and Esperance from 3pm Nigerian time on Sunday.