July 5, 2022

CAF CL: Express are a positive result away from qualification to the next round

By Brian Aheebwa
From L-R: Muzamir Mutyaba, Eric Kambale and Martin Kizza celebrate the former's goal in the 2021 CECAFA Kagame Cup | Photo by Aminah Babirye / Express FC

The reigning Uganda Premier League champions Express FC will be on a quest for at least a goal against Al-Merreikh in order to increase their chances of advancing to the next preliminary qualification round of the CAF Champions League.

The two sides, whose return leg fixture was pushed from Friday, September 17 to Sunday 19 will lock horns at Shikan Castle Stadium in Obeid, Sudan.

The Red Eagles however approach Sunday’s game with a slim 2-1 advantage incurred from the first leg that was played at St. Mary’s Stadium, Kitende a week ago.

This campaign remains just the second appearance at this coveted tournament for the Wankulukuku outfit, with their first having come two decades ago (1997).

The day of reckoning for their first adventure came at the hands of Zimbabwean side Caps United, who eliminated them on a 7-6 aggregate scoreline.

The demolishing 5-2 away defeat rendered their stay short-lived and left them out at the first round qualification stage despite the fact that they had earned a 4-2 home win in the fixture.

They had earlier outclassed and ejected Tanzanian giants Young Africans with a 1-0 aggregate result during the same 1997 campaign to secure a spot at the preliminary round.

That withstanding, Wasswa Bbosa’s side have been tremendous since winning the Uganda Premier League and their winning mentality has been something worth writing home about.

They immediately followed league glory with clinching the CECAFA Kagame Cup title and have since managed maximum points in the first time of asking against their Sunday opponents.

They will be hoping to capitalize on this recent form in Bbosa’s absentia from the punchline. Actually, even the opposition gaffer Diego Garzitto is not eligible to show face.

The latter is a ‘UEFA A’ licensed tactician while the former holds a ‘CAF B’ license which does not qualify them to be in the dugout for CAF games whose requirement is a ‘CAF A’ or its equivalent of a ‘UEFA Pro’ license.

Simon Peter Kirumira a ‘CAF A’ licensed gaffer whose services were sought by Express on a ceremonial basis will once again be the man in charge alongside assistant coach James Odoch.

What to expect

The Red Eagles took a more dominant position in the first leg encounter at Kitende last week but only through scoring the goals because as expected, the Sudanese dominated possession.

Goals from Erick Kambale and Martin Kizza did the trick on the evening and so there will be no surprises for guessing whether the duo gets to start the return leg.

There are currently no injury concerns in the Express FC camp implying that the head coach will have a variety of options from which to choose the most capable starting eleven.

Al-Merreikh on the other hand, will rely on Bakri Abd Elgadir’s goal away from home as a source of motivation and momentum to help them land the knockout punch.

Unlike the first leg, there will be a limited number of fans allowed into the venue which is by all means an advantage to the hosts who will have the benefit of the third man.

The two sides will ironically be meeting for the eighth time on the continent. The Sudanese have won four encounters while Express FC have won two and drawn once.

The tie-winner on aggregate will face the victor between Equatorial Guinea’s Akonangui FC and Zambia’s Zanaco FC in the second round. The latter holds a 2-0 advantage ahead of the return leg slated for Saturday, September 18.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.