Vipers technical department must be walking a fitness tightrope as the Caf champions league date with Sudanese giants Al Hilal draws nigh.
With most stars last playing competitive football in March, the race to get players fit and ready for the daunting continental challenge due this Saturday at the closed St Mary’s Stadium is truly on.
Club skipper Halid Lwaliwa can count himself lucky having featured for Uganda Cranes twice this month against South Sudan and should offer coach Fred Kajoba a reprieve.
“The league long break will obviously have an impact on our performance this weekend since it is almost a year since we played a competitive match but we know it has been the case worldwide and we still think we can make it far,” the defensive stalwart told Daily Monitor. Al Hilal Omdurman last played on October 24, losing 1-0 at home to archrivals Al Merreikh in the Sudan Premier League.
There are genuine concerns over the state of players’ fitness but the calm centre-back believes it will all be down to mental preparation and playing like it is the game of their lives.
“The outing with the national team (against South Sudan) gave me so much boost because it prepared me for this international game. Hilal is a big team because it has ever made it to the Caf group stages unlike us but I think we are better than them at the moment,” he emphasised. Lwaliwa hastily adds the fans will be dearly missed but they have been psyched up to play home and away without them. “We have trust in the experienced players so we have to push to the next stage.
“ We haven’t watched any of their videos playing but we know they are strong according to their history,” he added. After the December 6 return leg in Omdurman, Sudan, the overall winner between Vipers and Al Hilal will face Mauritania’s Nouadhibour or Ghana giants Asante Kotoko in the first round of the qualifiers before the eventual winner progresses to the group stages.
A lot at stake
To show their desperate ambition to qualify, Al Hilal arrived early on Tuesday and the contingent of 40 people including 20 players was booked into Pearl of Africa Hotel in Kampala.
“ I look forward to getting my professional chance like Fahad Bayo but that will depend on the solid performance I put over two legs.
“The president (Lawrence Mulindwa) hasn’t promised big reward yet but asked us to play to our best level,” he said.
Lwaliwa will most likely partner Geoffrey Wasswa at the heart of defence as Vipers target a home clean sheet.
CHAMPS LEAGUE PRELIMINARY ROUND
Vipers SC vs. Al Hilal
St Mary’s Stadium, Kitende
Second leg -Dec. 6
Al Hilal Omdurman vs. Vipers, Omdurman Stadium