In truth, if it all ends in a capitulation with MFMFC rolling over, they could be given a pass. It is their debut season in the Champions League and there almost certainly is no set target for the team in the elite continental competition. Just exploring to see deep they’d get into the competition. They’ve acquitted themselves fairly, getting past AS Real de Bamako, defeating MC Alger at home.
The victories were far from smooth for MFM FC. It took the dynamism and pace of teenage sensation Lawal Abayomi to get the victory against Real Bamako. The Church-owned side struggled to get into their element in the first leg against MC Alger. It took a thunderous strike from Monsuru Bashiru to hand the Olukoya Boys the winner after a moment of lull saw Aziovez Amachi equalize for the Algerian club.
In the first leg, MFM FC looked to have a clear plan: start quick off the blocks, press hard and high, avoid having a Plateau United-esque disaster in the opening minutes. It worked as MC Alger could not deal with the intensity of Ilechukwu’s wards. It only lasted a few though, as MC Algiers grew in the game and made sure to exploit their superior physicality.
Playing at the 64,000 capacity, Stade 5 Juillet 1962, on Saturday is certain to pose problems the Lagos-based side will find difficult to deal with. Asides the hostility of the crowd, the weather conditions also could present considerable trouble for MFM FC.
Ilechukwu, keenly aware of the dearth of quality in the MFM side, will have to work his side to the fringes of their talent to pull off a result at Algiers. It calls into question the shoddy handling of affairs by the back office of the club. Three of the club’s influential players, Sikiru Olatunbosun, Waheed Adebayo and Jesse Akila are currently not registered in the CAF Champions League. The trio was in the starting lineup for the 3-0 home win over Heartland and are certainly upgrades over awkwardly gaited Abiodun Joseph and teenager Lawal Abayomi.
Ilechukwu decried the lack of quality additions after the first leg where he had to tinker with his threadbare squad to attain balance to the side.
“I would have loved us to have bring (sic) in more players but it was wasn’t my fault that we were unable to do that,” said Ilechukwu
“In midfield, we had to force our number one player there to play as he was not fit for the game and we had no better option there. The situation would have been different if we had signed Oche Salefu.
“Same for the attack but we have to make do with what we have at the moment.”
Salefu alongside Victor Mbaoma were reported to have signed for MFM with Mbaoma playing in a friendly for the Olukoya Boys but it news emerged that negotiations broke down and Salefu moved to Rivers United while Mbaoma trumped for Akwa United where he is flourishing both in the League and in the Confederations Cup.
Without such quality, Ilechukwu will have to pull a rabbit out of a hat to leave Algiers with a positive result. He is need of a miracle to best a side whose last home game in the Champions League was a 9-0 win.