Most of these clubs have had limited time to recruit and adapt their new players before their continental assignments.
About 50 days after the last NPFL concluded, the four Nigerian clubs that qualified for the CAF inter-club competitions will begin their journey from the preliminary rounds this weekend.
Rivers United and Kwara United will begin the two-legged challenge, starting with home games while the other Remo Stars and Plateau United, will travel to far North and Central Africa, respectively.
Plateau United will play away from home at the Mobolaji Johnson Stadium in Lagos as they welcome the Nigerien side AS Douanes on Saturday. A day after, NPFL Champions, Rivers United will play against Watanga of Liberia at the Liberation Stadium.
Meanwhile Plateau United will visit ASO Stade Mandji of Gabon on Saturday while Remo Stars will confront the Moroccan side ASFAR Club on Sunday.
Considering time and preparations, these four Nigerian sides may be knocked out in the first round of qualifiers.
Last 10 seasons
In the last 10 years, only five Nigerian clubs have made it through the preliminary stages of both CAF inter-club competitions. In 2011 and 2012, Sunshine Stars, in their debut Confederations Cup and Champions League participation, reached the semi-final.
Lobi Stars made it to the group stage in the 2017/18 Champions League season.
Other clubs are Enugu Rangers, Enyimba, and Rivers United, who have reached the group stages of the Confederations Cup in the last 10 years.
Rivers United and Plateau United are the more experienced outfits amongst the four clubs representing Nigeria, as both will make their third appearances on the continent this season.
The last time Plateau United played on the continent, they didn’t go past the first round after an aggregate 4-3 defeat to Tunisian side Etoile de Sahel in 2018.
Meanwhile, Kwara United will make its first continental appearance in 15 years.
Remo Stars are the newbies among the Nigerian teams as they take debutant steps. They will hope to follow in the footsteps of Sunshine Stars who made an impact in their debut Confederations Cup appearance in 2011.
Reinforcements and departures
The four clubs have experienced both arrivals and departures of players during the NPFL transfer window, which began on 1 August 2022 and lasts till 30 September, ahead of their continental engagements.
There have been quite some changes in the squad of all four Nigerian clubs playing on the continent.
We can describe this effect as one factor that can promote or mar their chances of qualification. While some have gone for the best legs in the league, some have lost their best legs to foreign Leagues.
Most Nigerian clubs have a significant challenge of being able to adequately compete on the continent because of a mass exodus of players that leave those clubs after a great season.
Also, the short time for recruitment by clubs does not help the chemistry in the teams ahead of these big games.
This malaise has struck the four teams once again. Some have had to make bulk signings, and some saw the exodus of some of their best legs. The club with the highest number of recruitments amongst the four is Kwara United, who made 14 signings.
According to a report by PREMIUM TIMES in July, most Nigerian clubs face a significant challenge in adequately competing on the continent due to a mass exodus of players who leave those clubs after a successful season.
Furthermore, the short time frame for club recruitment does not help team chemistry ahead of these big games.
This ailment has struck the four teams, once more. Some have had to make bulk signings, while others have seen some of their best legs leave. Kwara United has made the most signings of the four clubs, with 14 signings
However, the Harmony boys have lost their top attackers to foreign clubs. Junior Lokosa, Samad Kadiri, and Alao Danbani produced 25 goals for the Harmony boys last season. Their departures mean they will face a tough time being offensive against AS Douanes.
Out: Emmanuel Iwu, Bashir Monsuru, Junior Lokosa, Samad Kadiri, Alao Danbani
In: Samson Paul, Wasiu Alalade, Wasiu Jimoh, Ahmed Jimoh, Abiodun Adebayo, Muri Dagbo, Mustapha Salisu, Adeyinka Adewale, Hamed Yaqub, Barnabas Daniel, Taofeeq Hammed, Ibrahim Mohammed, and Owolabi Aremu
Rivers United signed 13 players during the transfer window.
A popular signing is former Super Eagles midfielder Paul Onobi, while experienced goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai, Rafiu Ishaq, and Sikiru Olatunbosun have been confirmed to have left the club.
Fortunately, the NPFL’s highest goalscorer, Chijioke Akuneto, is still available for the Stanley Eguma-led team.
In: Azeez Godswill, Emmanuel Ampiah, Farouk Mohammed, Adebayo Olaolu, Ikeh Promise, Ukeme Williams, Paul Onobi, Denis Ndasi, Abdulrahman Olarenwaju, Abiodun Akande, Ekeocha Chukwudi, Mutawakilu Seidu, Bolaji Sakin
Out: Theophilus Afelokhai, Rafiu Ishaq, Sikiru Olatunbosun
Remo Stars and Plateau United also made a couple of signings.
Plateau United reinforced with Ibrahim Mustapha, Mustapha Abdullahi, and Christopher Nwaeze, however, Andrew Ikefe who was an active member last season, moved to Lebanon during the summer.
Remo Stars reinforced their squad with seven players. Adams Olamilekan, from Lobi Stars, Dakkada’s highest goal scorer Edidiong Ezekiel, goalkeeper Vincent Edafe and defender Nwaeze Boniface. The Blue Sky Stars also recruited the services of Akwa United’s Seth Mayi and FC One Rocket’s Aniekeme Okon.
However, Sikiru Alimi left the club after the expiration of his contract.
With the influx of new signings, it might be difficult to adapt these players into the philosophy of the teams ahead of this weekend’s action on the continent but they will hope otherwise.