Simba SC are not invincible and can be beaten at home, Plateau United boss Abdu Maikaba has said.
Plateau United take on the Tanzanian side on Saturday looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of their CAF Champions League preliminary round in what is only their second time in the competition since their 2018 debut.
The first leg at the New Jos Stadium last Saturday saw United dominate their more illustrious opponents, creating chance after chance only to fall to a 53rd minute Cletous Chama sucker punch as they paid the price for their profligacy.
Maikaba admits the match was United practically poking in the dark against opponents they had little knowledge of but is buoyed by how well his players performed sans their lack of a clinical edge.
Having gotten a measure of Sven Vandenbroeck’s side in Jos, Maikaba says he has the perfect game plan for Saturday’s 3pm encounter at the Benjamin Nkapa Stadium and believes his side can achieve an upset by replicating their intensity from the first leg and implementing the game plan to perfection.
“If our players should have that tactical discipline in the game, I think we have seen our opponents and we have planned very well for them,” the former Enyimba boss told busybuddiesng.com. “I hope our players can be able to execute the plan, and I assure you that we’ll come out happily after all this because we have an idea of our opponents and quite okay, they’re a good side, but they’re not invincible.
“I believe that on our good day, if we get things right, we can be able to overturn that result.”
An additional source of motivation for his players, Maikaba says, is the knowledge that defeat means an ouster from the continent’s premier club competition and a consciousness that national pride is also at stake.
Maikaba says, beyond the need to “salvage our image”, victory over Simba and with it qualification to the first round would impact Nigeria’s CAF inter-club coefficient rankings, ensuring the country will still have two slots in the Champions League and Confederation Cup next season.
“We need to go there and salvage our image by winning that game,” he says.
“We have a very big task ahead of us, we should understand that losing in that game, we are out of the competition, and if Nigerian teams are going out of the competition so early like that, our points will reduce and that means that they will reduce the number of clubs representing Nigeria and it’s not good for us.
“So, we’ll try our very best, I’ll let them know that. It happens so many times in this same competition, African football, and I believe we can do the same.”
For all his bullish talk, Plateau face an uphill task against the Tanzanians who not only have the advantage of winning away from home in the reverse, but are unbeaten in five games in all competitions, winning four and keeping four clean sheets in that run.
While the game on Saturday will be Plateau’s second competitive game of the season, Simba are already eleven games into the Tanzanian Premier League season and come into the encounter the sharper of both sides.
The Tanzanians have also not lost a home game in the Champions League since 2013 when they suffered a 1-0 reverse to Angolan side Recreativo Desportivo. Then there is the question of the thirty thousand fans who will be in the stands rooting for the home side.
On their part, Plateau United have a fifty percent success record on the road in the Champions League and their record at this stage of the competition could be a good portent.
They won their first ever match away from home at this same stage in 2018, a 1-0 triumph at Cameroonian side Eding Sport to win 4-0 on aggregate before exiting the competition in the next round after a 4-2 loss (4-3 on aggregate) at Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel.
They showed in both games that they can score away from home and Maikaba believes they can do it again at Simba.
The more pressing concern, though, is the absolute necessity of keeping the ball out at the other end, or failing that Maikaba says, ensuring they score one more goal than their opponents to get the win on aggregate.
“We must not concede a goal. That is why I talked about tactical discipline. We must not concede a goal, and I believe we will score at least a goal before the end of 90 minutes,” the former Akwa United gaffer says.
“And if we can do that we have equal chance with our opponent. If we can score two and our opponents score less than two, we have won the game and we have qualified, and it’s is very very possible, with the way we played in the last game, we created more chances than our opponents. I think we can do the same in Tanzania.”