CAF Champions League first-round draw: Akwa United to play CR Belouizdad
Nigerian champions Akwa United have been drawn against Algerian side CR Belouizdad in the CAF champions league first round.
The draw was held at CAF headquarters, Cairo, on Friday, with the Uyo-based team paired with the six-time Algerian champions.
Akwa United sealed a spot in the competition after clinching the NPFL title, and will now face the Ligue Professionnelle 1 winners home and away in September.
The first leg will hold on September 11 or 12, and the second leg the following week.
It will be the Promise Keepers’ debut in the competition but third foray into the continental scene, having played in the Confederation Cup in 2016 and 2018.
Having come agaist Libyan side Al Ittihad in the 2018 Confederation Cup, it will be the second time the Promise Keepers will come against north African opposition.
Against Al Ittihad, aggregate score stood at 1-1, but Akwa United — then led by Abdu Makaiba — prevailed 4-3 on penalties.
After overcoming the Tripoli-based team, the Uyo club needed an aggregate win over Al Hilal Omdurman to secure a place in the group stages of the competition. However, they crashed out through goal difference. The first leg ended 2-0 in favour of the Sudanese outfit in Omdurman, while Akwa United won 3-1 in Uyo.
In their previous continental campaigns, the Nigerian side failed to reach the group stages but after massively improving their squad in the last two seasons, the club will be looking to reach the group stage of the competition.
Akwa United coach Kennedy Boboye, though, has very little Champions League experience. His only previous involvement at that level came at Plateau United in 2018 — and that campaign ended in disappointment, with his team failing to secure a group-stage spot.
Belouizdad coach Zoran Manojlovic, in contrast, is vastly experienced, having guided Wydad Casablanca to the semi-finals in the 2019-20 campaign and Al Hilal to the group stage the following season.
If Akwa United beat Belouizdad over two legs, they will meet the winners of the ties between Senegalese side Tengueth FC and Ivorian giants ASEC Mimosas.
While Akwa United prepare to trade tackles with the six-time Algerian champions, who will be making their first appearance in the competition since 2002, Rivers United — who finished second in the NPFL standings — can look forward to a trip to Dar es Salaam after being drawn to face Tanzanian club Young Africans.