Lobi Stars, Rangers Eye Progress In Continental Challenges

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Rangers’ Coach, Gbenga Ogunbote (right), putting heads together with his players during a previous match.

Lobi Stars and Enugu Rangers kicked off their continental campaigns, in the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup, respectively without much fuss during the last round.
The Pride of Benue saw off UMS de Loum of Cameroon 2-1 on aggregate, while the Flying Antelopes dispatched Ethiopian side Defence Force 5-1 to progress.
The big challenges come up this weekend, as Lobi takes on Kenyan giants Gor Mahia in the Champions League final qualification round, while Rangers are up against USM Bel Abbes in the Confederation Cup second qualification round.
K’Ogalo have wealth of experience on the continental scene, and that’s not hard to understand as they are Kenya’s most successful team with 17 Premier League titles. However, their consistent representation has not led to any title triumph in the African elite competition, they’ll be looking to avoid last season’s disappointment, where they narrowly lost out to eventual champions Esperance in this round and dropped into the Confederation Cup.
Lobi Stars’ only appearance in the Champions League came in 2000 on the back of winning the league in 1999. They did manage to reach the group phase – the last hurdle before the final – but could only finish third in Group B behind Hearts of Oak and Al-Ahly.
Even though Gor Mahia is a more decorated club than the Makurdi outfit, Coach Solomon Ogbeide sees his side as a match for the Kenyans.
“Of course we know that Gor Mahia are a very big club from Kenya but the business…is the match on the field of play and Lobi Stars are also a big team,” he told the official Caf website.
The veteran coach believes his men are ready to challenge having recruited some big names in the Nigeria Professional Football League during the offseason. Kelly Kester, Samuel Mathias, Nojeem Olukokun and Sikiru Alimi have all arrived, but, as he said, the pitch is where the business is, and Lobi must prove they have what it takes to dispatch Gor.
Bel Abbes are not one of the big Algerian teams, having spent a chunk of their history in the lower tier where they won the Ligue 2 title five times.
They were able to qualify for the Confederation Cup after winning the Algerian Cup, even as they finished 10th in Ligue 1.
This will be their first ever appearance in the Confederation Cup, and having seen off LISCR FC of Liberia in the preliminary round, they’ll be looking continue making strides in their maiden season in Africa.
Rangers do have better history than their Algerians counterparts; they’ve appeared four times under the current competition name, and were close to making it to the 2004 final only to lose out to Ghana’s Asante Kotoko in the group phase.
Since then, they’ve failed to reach that round as the tournament has gone through a few tweaks, and they suffered a heavy 5-2 aggregate loss to ZESCO United in last year’s final qualification round.