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Sports News of Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Kotoko hopeful of a bright start against Kano Pillars

Asante Kotoko will be looking to rewrite history when they come face to face with Nigeria powerhouse Kano pillars in the 2019/2020 CAF Champions League preliminary round first leg on Saturday in Kaduna.

The last time they participated in the competition was in 2015 when they suffered elimination at the hands of Algerian side, MC El Eulma 2-1 on aggregate. The Porcupine Warriors met a similar fate earlier in 2013 exiting the competition at the same stage, falling to yet another Algerian side JSM Bejaia, on the away goal rule after a 1-1 tie on aggregate.

With this at the back of their minds, the fans have charged the playing body and technical team to make qualification into the Group stage a reality, just as they did in the CAF Confederation Cup last season.

Kotoko will be facing Kano Pillars with an entirely different technical staff following the exit of Charles Kwablan Akonnor. His replacement, Kjetil Zachariassen, though with little experience in the continental club championship, believes they have what it takes to scale their first hurdle this weekend.

Zachariassen penned a three year contract few weeks ago, and has been tasked with leading the Kumasi-based club to the group stage of the premier continental club championship in the first season. He knows what’s at stake and he has his work cut out for him and believes a good start will be key to their survival in the competition.

“We’ve played a couple of games so far and training has been good. So we are confident ahead of the game this weekend. For me as a coach it’s a new challenge, one I am happy to accept and make sure I deliver to make the fans happy.”

“Having said that, we know our opponents well and what they can do especially at their home grounds. So we are preparing for a good game in Nigeria. We want to take one game at a time and for now the first leg will give us more insight into what we are up against.”

Zachariassen had a superb time with AshantiGold SC after replacing Svetislav Tanasijevic in the second round of the Ghanaian season.

The Norwegian coach guided the Miners to clinch the Tier 2 of the Special Competition (knockout) and qualified the team to the CAF Confederation Cup for the 2019/2020 season, before suddenly switching camp to regional rivals Kotoko.

The exit of some key players in the team has seen its management go on a shopping spree, roping in about 12 new players. Indeed Kotoko team is one that is rebuilding as the likes of captain Amos Frimpong and midfielder Kwame Bonsu have all joined the exodus bandwagon whilst others have been offloaded.

Newly appointed captain, goalkeeper Felix Annan has asked the fans to be moderate in their expectations though he believes they are ready for the challenge.

“We know that when you are playing for Kotoko, the expectations are always high. We want to tell the fans to limit their expectations but we the playing body are going to do our best to try and lift the club high in the CAF Champions League, just as we did in the Confederations Cup. All we want from them is their support and prayers”, Felix Annan mentioned in an interview.

The winners after the two-legged tie between Pillars and Kotoko are billed to face Hafia FC of Guinea or Tunisian club Etoile du Sahel in the next stage.