Talismanic captain of Kano Pillars, Rabiu Ali, has predicted a tough duel away to Asante Kotoko in the reverse Total CAF Champions League preliminary round tie to be played this weekend in Kumasi.
A fortnight ago, Kano Pillars secured a hard-fought 3-2 home win at the Sani Abacha Stadium nevertheless the 33-year-old Ali is confident his side would scale the hurdle against the battle-hardened Porcupine Warriors at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi on Sunday.
“We are not expecting an easy match in Kumasi against Asante Kotoko. Unlike in the first leg, we know what to expect in the second leg match,” said Ali, who scored the second goal and provided the assist for the winner by Mohammed Gambo in the first leg tie in Kano told CAFOnline.com.
“It was a difficult game for us in Kano. Now we have to prepare well ahead for the return leg in Kumasi because we know Asante Kotoko is big club.”
Rabiu Ali: Expects a tough match in Kumasi
Though the Ghanaian side are by far experienced being two-time continental champions in 1970 and 1983 as well as winning a record 24 Ghanaian Premier League title, Ali who turn 39 next month (September 27) and has won three successive Nigeria league titles with Kano Pillars between 2011 and 2914 remains unperturbed.
“Football is full of surprises and nobody can predict the outcome of the match in Kumasi because it will be a big battle. We (Kano Pillars) have participated in the CAF Champions League in the past and even reached the semi-finals in 2011 when we lost to Heartland of Owerri.
“We have not done better than that since then but we have so much motivation especially after winning the Aiteo Cup ( Nigerian version of the FA Cup) for the first time and we believe we can do well in this year’s CAF Champions League.”
Asante Kotoko's Evans Owusu battles for the ball in the first leg
An energetic attacking midfielder, better known as Pele on the Nigerian domestic football scene, Ali was sanctioned in June and would miss the opening 12 matches of the impending domestic season for allegedly inciting the crowd against match officials during a Playoff match in Lagos.
“I’m not a controversial or stubborn player. I don’t like to lose matches; I love only to win and that is why I would want to do everything possible for my team to win. I have won three league titles with Kano Pillars and I’m really delighted with the Aiteo Cup win after we lost in the final last year.
“We will press for a win against Asante Kotoko in Kumasi and we can’t be talking of defending. We have players that can help us and I think Mohammed Gambo who scored the winning goal for us against Asante Kotoko in Kano would be our joker again in Kumasi.
“Matches like this is very difficult to predict. It’s going to be a tough match but we ( Kano Pillars) are hopeful of qualification to the next round,” added Rabiu who was named Pele for his velvet skills way back from his days at Kuka Primary School in Kano.
Meanwhile, the aggregate winner between Kano Pillars and Asante Kotoko would face either Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia or Hafia of Guinea in the Total CAF Champions League second round fixture.
Friday, August 23
Al Ahly (Egypt) vs Atlabara (South Sudan) (4-0)
KCCA (Uganda) vs African Stars (Namibia) (2-3)
Cote d’Or (Seychelles) vs Fomboni (Comoros) (2-2)
Saturday, August 24
Raja Athletic Club (Morocco) vs Brikama United (Gambia) (3-3)
El Merreikh (Sudan) vs JS Kabylie (Algeria) (0-1)
Zamalek (Egypt) vs Dekadaha (Somalia) (7-0)
Generation Foot (Senegal) vs LPRC Oilers (Liberia) (0-1)
Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) vs Hafia (Guinea) (1-2)
Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) vs AS Otoho (Congo) (1-2)
Zesco United (Zambia) vs Green Mamba (Eswatini) (2-0)
Township Rollers (Botswana) vs Young Africans (Tanzania) (1-1)
FC Platinum (Zimbabwe) vs Big Bullets (Malawi) (0-0)
Primeiro de Agosto (Angola) vs KMKM (Zanzibar) (2-0)
Orlando Pirates (South Africa) vs Green Eagles (Zambia) (0-1)
Sunday, August 25
*El Nasr (Libya) vs Tempete Mocaf (Central African Republic) (0-1)
Horoya (Guinea) vs Stade Malien (Mali) (1-1)
ASCK (Togo) vs Buffles (Benin) (1-1)
AS Vita (Cameroon) vs UMS de Loum (Cameroon) (0-0)
El Hilal (Sudan) vs Rayon Sports (Rwanda) (1-1)
Enyimba (Nigeria) vs Rahimo (Burkina Faso) (0-1)
USM Alger (Algeria) vs SONIDEP (Niger) (2-1)
Gor Mahia (Kenya) vs Aigle Noir (Burundi) (0-0)
Mekelle (Ethiopia) vs Cano Sport (Equatorial Guinea) (1-2)
Asante Kotoko (Ghana) vs Kano Pillars (Nigeria) (2-3)
Petro Atletico (Angola) vs Matlama (Lesotho)(2-0)
Nouadhibou (Mauritania) vs SOA (Cote d’Ivoire) (0-0)
Elect Sport (Chad) vs CMS (Gabon) (0-0)
Simba (Tanzania) vs UD Songo (0-0)
Pamplemousses (Mauritius) vs Fosa Juniors (Madagascar (0-1)
*Match will be played in Cairo