Head coach of Raja Casablanca Juan Garrido has called on his players to react against the “non ideal situation” they found themselves in Nigeria when they face Enyimba in Wednesday’s CAF Confederation Cup semi-final first leg tie.
Both Raja and their Nigerian hosts, Enyimba were locked in an off-the-pitch row on Monday after the Moroccans accused Enyimba of not coming to pick them at the airport, an accusation the former African champions vehemently denied.
Raja eventually left Port Harcourt on Tuesday afternoon for Aba, venue of Wednesday’s match and team’s head coach Garrido who acknowledged the difficulty of traveling in Africa said his players must be ready to react against the situation when they take to the pitch on Wednesday.
“We have to know that traveling in Africa is always difficult and I think that it was more difficult for us today than usually. I think there is a lot of misunderstandings surrounding the arrival at the airport and the hotel,” said Garrido at the pre-match press conference in Aba.
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“We know this is not an ideal situation and our players and team have to react against the situation to know that more than often, we have to play a good match. To play hard and a very concentrated match and try to make everything perfect if it’s possible.”
Raja Casablanca have only lost once away from home in this season’s Confederation Cup – a 2-0 reversal against fellow semi-finalists AS Vita in the group stage – and Garrido believes his team must be well organised defensively against the Nigerians in the mid-afternoon sunshine on Wednesday.
“We must try to play with a good defensive organisation and use the ball well when we have it. For us it is a very important game, to play away from home in Africa is always tough. So, we always advise our players to have great focus and be very very smart,” said the former Villareal manager.
The last time both teams met in a CAF continental cup was in the group stage of 2005 Champions League when Raja Casablanca beat Enyimba 1-0 in Casablanca before losing 2-0 in the reverse fixture in Aba. Garrido has good words for his opponents but emphasised that his team must concentrate for ninety minutes.
“At this stage of the competition, we know the opponents, the opponents know us. We have their information and the games they’ve played. Enyimba are in a good position, they played very well in their last few games and have lots of offensive potentials with great players.
“It will be a very difficult game for us obviously. In a way, we want to play a very good game, we know we have to concentrate a lot, we know we have to play hard and have a very good defensive organisation. We will do our best,” said Garrido.
The first leg of the first semifinal match has been scheduled to kickoff at 2pm Nigerian time at the Enyimba Stadium in Aba on Wednesday with the return leg billed to hold in Casablanca on October 24, 2018.
Fisayo Dairo reporting from Aba