Kano Pillars technical adviser Emmanuel Lionel Soccoia is cautiously optimistic his team can overturn a two-goal deficit in their Confederation Cup preliminary round second leg against ASC Jaraaf on Saturday.
Goals from Zaky Bassene, Samba Dialo and Lubasse Gulye cancelled out David Ebuka’s early goal to hand the Senegalese side a 3-1 advantage in what was Soccoia’s first game in charge of Pillars.
The Sai Masu Gida, making their first ever appearance in the competition, are up against it, heading to the Ahmadu Bello Stadium knowing they have never managed to progress in CAF inter-club competitions following a loss in the first leg.
On the three previous occasions Pillars have lost in the first leg on the continent, they’ve ended up getting knocked out each time: to Wydad Casablanca 2011, Vita Club in 2014 and Moghreb Tetouan in 2015, although the losses all came in the Champions League.
Jaraaf, meanwhile, have appeared five times in the Confederation Cup, reaching the playoffs twice and making three preliminary round exits.
Soccoia, who was appointed in October to take over from Ibrahim Musa in order to satisfy CAF’s stipulation that only coaches with ‘A’ licenses take charge of continental games, also has a spotty record on the continent following a first leg loss.
His last match in CAF inter-club competition saw his Coton Sport knocked out 2-1 on aggregate in 2016 following a 1-0 defeat at Stade Malien in the first leg.
Also, since their Cinderella run to the semifinals of the Champions League in their debut season, Pillars have struggled on the continent, never progressing beyond the first round in five subsequent appearances and fell at the first hurdle to Asante Kotoko last season.
And then, there is the little matter of Saturday’s game being Pillar’s second competitive game in more than eight months.
But a confident Soccoia insists while the task ahead won’t be easy, his players are well prepared and better placed to buck the trend in the 4pm kickoff where a 2-0 victory against Jaraaf will see them through to the playoffs.
“[We’ve had] one week of good preparations, we had a good camp in Kaduna on Monday, we’ve had training everyday and it’s been okay,” the former Black Leopards coach said.
“We’re ready for the game, I know it’s not easy because we have two goals less of the team but it’s possible with the team, with the preparation we know it’s always possible but it will not be easy.”
The 50-year-old Frenchman believes less than ideal preparations contributed to their defeat in the first leg and says that has now been corrected ahead of the second leg.
“[We’re in better shape now.] The last game against Jaraaf was tight because we didn’t sleep Tuesday before the game, Friday we had to travel, no rest, so the players were more tired before the game.
“But now we have had good sleep, good rest, good preparations, eaten well, we have everything to be better on Saturday.”
Soccoia also revealed some team news ahead of the game, revealing he would be without five players for the tie after two more players joined the injury list.
He, however, backed the rest of his squad to come in and do well.
“We are five players less not three, because some got injured in training. It’s too much but the other players must play because they’re good players.”