BTC Premiership champions Township Rollers will face Sudanese giants Al Merreikh in the CAF Champions League, while Mascom Top 8 winners Jwaneng Galaxy have been drawn against Costa Do Sol from Mozambique in Conferations Cup premilinary rounds.
The two-leg preliminary round ties are scheduled for February and the first round for March with the opening group games during May. Popa will be looking for an improved campaign in the continental showpiece after a shock exit at the hands Madagascar club CNaPS Sport last year.
Nikola Kavazovic’s side currently lead the Premiership table,coupled with a Mascom Top 8 semi finals spot, however his first big test will be a long trip to El-Merreikh Stadium in Omdurman.
“We are happy with the draw, Al Merreikh is a good team with good experience in Africa so it will be a good test for our boys.It could be nice if we have the support from Botswana because these kind of games home support is very crucial.Last year we lost away at Madagascar and won at home however our aggregate score did not favour us,”Rollers assistant coach Mogomotsi Mpote told Gazzette Sport.
Mpote also added a realistic passage to the group stages of the competition is achievable, despite the challenges clubs face in Africa.
“The boys have gained experience in the competition so they have exposure on what is needed to win in Africa.We do not want to put pressure on the boys with mandates and stuff but the club ambition is to compete continental big clubs,”he said.
The Sudanese giants’ pedigree in the CAF competitions is well documented having won the CAF Conferation Cup in 1989 and semifinal stage in 2015. The red devils as they are popularly known share a fierce rivalrly with another Omdurman heavweight Al Hilal,in what has been a two horse race of silverware success in the Arabic country.
French coach Diego Garzitto will be desperate to win another CAF trophy having lead Congolese club TP Mazembe to the title in 2009.
Mining club Galaxy will take a short trip to Maputo in their maiden appearance in the continental championships.Their opponents Costa Do Sol won the Mozambican cup for the first time in 10 years getting a passage to the Total CAF Conferations Cup.
Reached for comment Galaxy Chairman Njabulo Gilika said the club is ready to take part in the competition and will fancy their chances of progessing from the tie.
“To be honest,before the draw we were happy being drawn against any team because we are new in the competition.We want to appoint a new coach before the start of the tournament so that he has enough time to prepare the squad,”he said.
Meanwhile this publication has learned that it will require 14 or 16 matches to become African champions with the rewards including a $2.5 million prize and qualification for the Fifa Club World Cup.