Win or bust. That is probably what is on the minds of everyone at Kitende as Ugandan Premier League Champions Vipers take on El Merriekh at St Mary’s Stadium in the second leg of the CAF Champions League qualifiers.
The Kitende-based side will hope to overturn a one goal deficit after falling to Sudanese giants 2-1 a week ago in Khartoum Sudan.
Goals from Al Madina Bakri and Ibrahim Altag in the 79 and 82 minute gave Al Merriekh the lead before Dan Muzeeyi Sserunkuma came off the bench to score with four minutes on the clock to restore some hope for Vipers.
“I believe we have the potential to win at home and advance to the next stage. I must say the boys put up a spirited performance. We were hard done by those two late goals and not utilising the chances we got in the game,” Vipers head coach Javier Martinez said after the first game.
Knowing the task at hand and challenge that lies ahead, the players have undergone rigorous and highly intensive training at Kitende with much focus on the final third of the pitch with emphasis on goal scoring from different attacking situations.
Speaking ahead of their second leg encounter, Captain Taddeo Lwanga urged the team to gain confidence from the fact that they are playing at home and having their away goal advantage at the back of their mind
“We are ready. We have been training very well since we returned from Sudan. Our target is to reach the group stages and tomorrow is the day we try achieve that. We are representing the entire country and not just the Vipers family. Plying at home will be key and the away goal is the other positive we carry into the game,” Lwanga said.
We shall not be intimidated by the previous result as we are aware that El Merriekh has its own weaknesses and we shall capitalise on those weaknesses as we approach the game.”
El Merriekh arrived in the country late on Saturday and have had numerous training sessions to acclimatize themselves with the conditions in the country.
Vipers chairman Lawrence Mulindwa has used the few days his opponents have spent in the country to establish strong links with the club and exchange ideas despite their differences.
Vipers have no major injury concerns save for Burundian goal keeper Fabien Mutombola who remains sidelined.
But they will be buoyed by the timely return of strikers Davis Kasirye from injury which ruled him out of the first leg and it remains to be seen if Steven Mukwala can shake off a knock he sustained with the U23 national side.
The return of both strikers will provide more attacking options for Martinez as he seeks to name an attacking team that can get the result.
A 1-0 victory will be enough to see Vipers through to the next round where they will face either CS Constatine of Algeria or GAMTEL from Gambia at the first round which is the final qualifying phase to the group stage.
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