The Port Harcourt-based club won the Nigerian league title for the first time this year
The 2022-2023 CAF Champions League draw has placed Nigerian champions Rivers United in a problematic position, reducing the club’s chances of making it to the group stages of the competition.
In the draw concluded on Tuesday, Rivers United will trade tackles with Liberia’s Watanga FC over two legs in the first round of the preliminary stage.
While the Liberian champions are no pushovers, Rivers United are favourites to triumph over a side set to make their first appearance at the continent’s premier club competition.
Like Watanga FC, Rivers United only won the Nigeria Professional Football League title for the first time this season.
We have been drawn against Watanga FC of Liberia in the first preliminary round of the CAF Champions League.— Rivers United FC (@RiversUnitedFC) August 9, 2022
The Pride of Rivers will host the first leg, and should we progress will face defending Champions, Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco for a place in the group stages. pic.twitter.com/bpQhmo8Hql
But the Pride of Rivers were CAF Champions League campaigners last season, beating Tanzania’s Young Africans on aggregate in the opening round.
United’s march to the group stage was, however, halted in the second preliminary round by Sudan’s Al Hilal.
An even more difficult challenge awaits the winner of the Rivers United and Watanga FC clash this time around, though.
The winner of the fixtures will face CAF Champions League champions Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco for a place in the group stage.
With three CAF CL titles and a record 22-time Botola championships, Wydad AC are one of the most successful clubs on the continent.
The Emperors defeated Egypt’s Al Ahly in May to claim their latest continental crown.
While the Moroccan giants are regular title contenders, Rivers United did not make it to the Champions League group stages in their two previous attempts.
The first leg of the first round matches will hold within the weekend of 9-11 September, and the second leg is set for 16-18 September.
The first and second legs of the second preliminary round will take place between 7-9 and 14-16 October, respectively.
How do other Nigerian clubs on the continent fare?
Nigeria’s second representative at the premier club competition, Plateau United, will meet Gabon’s AS Mandji in the first round.
If the Jos-based side advances to the second round, they will battle with another former CAF CL winner Esperance du Tunis, for a group stage spot.
In the CAF Confederations Cup, Kwara United will lock horns with AS Douanes of Niger Republic over two legs, the first of which will be played in Nigeria.
Remo Stars, the second Nigerian campaigners in the competition, will have a mountain to climb against Morocco’s AS FAR.