Rivers United gaffer Stanley Eguma believes his team is nearing peak condition and getting into their stride as they get set to kickoff their season with a trip to Futuro Kings in the CAF Confederation Cup.
United get their 2020-21 campaign off at minnows Futuro Kings on Saturday, 28 November, in the first leg of preliminary round of the Confederation Cup, and are expected to advance to the next round at the expense of the debutants who were founded just three years ago.
While United, who are returning to the continent for the first time since 2017, are expected to make short work of the Equatorial Guineans, their preparations ahead of the new season have been far from ideal.
The Port Harcourt side has not played a competitive fixture since March when the 2019-20 Nigeria Professional Football League was discontinued and a subsequent seven-month restriction on sports prevented them from training.
However, with the restrictions now lifted, Eguma’s side are working to make up for lost time and have been attempting to get to speed at the Governor Dapo Abiodun Pre-Season tournament where they defeated Gateway FC 2-0 on Friday.
Speaking after the win, the former Enyimba assistant coach said he was happy with the conditioning and improving chemistry of his players and believes everything will fall into place soon.
“We have started preparation in earnest. Just like you’ve seen today it’s part of our preparation to make sure that the players are match fit,” Eguma said.
“The COVID 19 did not help matters, it made us not to start early. But so far, so good, we thank God that we’ve gone as far as we are today, the players are beginning to understand themselves gradually and I believe that in a very short time we’ll gel as a team.”
The coronavirus pandemic might have conspired to deprive Rivers United of the ideal preseason, but the same cannot be said about their transfer market dealings which has been impressive.
A raft of signings headlined by the stunning capture of Nigerian internationals and former Enyimba duo Theophilus Afelokhai and Ifeanyi Anaemena on free transfers.
The signings were seen as a statement of intent from a team without a trophy since their transformation to Rivers United in 2016 and a coach whose last trophy came nearly a decade ago when he led the defunct Dolphins FC to the league title in 2011.
And Eguma who led Rivers United to the group stages of the Confederation Cup in 2017 confirmed their target for the season is to ensure a two-pronged attack on the league and the Confederation Cup.
“Our main aim is to build a strong team that will represent well in the NPFL and the CAF Confederation Cup competition,” Eguma said.
“So those are our main targets, but however if we have the opportunity to pick the trophy, well I think we’ll appreciate that.”
While Rivers United have never gone past the group stage of the Confederation Cup, the club reached the final in 2005 as Dolphins FC where they lost to Royal Armed Forces (FAR Rabat) of Morocco 3-1 on aggregate.