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18.10.2008 Football News

Kotoko To Finish Hard - As They Play Away To El-Merreikh

Kumasi Asante Kotoko and El-Merreikh will be playing for pride tomorrow as the Group matches of the CAF Confederation Cup get to the final stretch.

Any hopes for Asante Kotoko slipped out barely a fortnight ago at their Kumasi fortress when Etoile Sportive du Sahel held them to a 2-2 draw in a match that was followed by crowd troubles outside the stadium.

But the former Africa champions are hoping a victory over El-Merreikh in the last group match in Khartoum tomorrow will at least restore some pride.

On the flip side, El-Merreikh have also found themselves out of the competition and will likewise be playing for pride.

It cannot be described as a calamitous continental journey for the Ghanaian champions.

They entered Africa with a host of young inexperienced players, most of them in only their first season in continental soccer. Perhaps the experience gained will catapult them to greater heights next season in the prestigious CAF Champions League.

Happily enough, reports from the camp of the Kotoko team in The Sudan speak of an appreciable level of optimism as the players seem to have put the 2-2 draw against Etoile Sportive du Sahel behind them to go for a last glory.

Of course, their disappointed supporters would not countenance any ignominious end to the competition and only a respectable score line would appease them.

But reaping results in The Sudan would not come easy. The Porcupine Warriors would have to play above themselves to overcome their opponents who were a handful for the Ghanaian champions in Kumasi before losing by a late Eric Bekoe goal.

As club Communications Director, Kwame Baah-Nuako, told the Graphic Sports, "We know the enormity of the task and we are determined to play our hearts out and send out clear signals that we will be fully ready for next year's CAF Champions League".

For the Sudanese, victory is even more vital. If they lose again, it would be disastrous for a side that was initially considered the frontrunners in Group B.

They play one of the finest games in the competition, yet fate had confined them to the bottom of the table.

Having crumbled 1-3 under the weight of JS Kabylie in Sousse in the penultimate group match, El-Merreikh would likewise move to bring some smiles to the faces of their supporters with a win.

Kotoko enter the Khartoum game minus head coach, Bashir Hayford, who was dropped for alleged indisciplinary acts.

Assistant coach, Johnson Smith, will not face selection quandaries and will have the luxury of choosing from a squad that has only Kwadwo Poku on suspension. On that level of strength, Smith must have faith in trusted striker, Eric Bekoe, to lead the onslaught.

The striker has had an insatiable appetite for goals at home, but the same cannot be said of him away and he has to prove critics wrong this time.

The Kotoko defence has struggled to cope with their away duties, conceding goals, some of which were unpardonable.

Mindful of this, the back four likely to feature Samuel Inkoom, Godfred Yeboah, Osei Kwame and Ofosu Appiah can only help to prevent El-Merreikh from getting any goal.

Preview by Kwame Asare Boadu

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