Nigeria's Heartland will play in this year's Champions League final
An outstanding home record makes Nigerian club Heartland favourites to build a first-leg lead over TP Mazembe of DR Congo in the Champions League final on Sunday.
The 'Naze Millionaires' boast a 100 percent record and a 21-3 goal tally in seven games at the 10,000-capacity Dan Anyiam Stadium.
Among the victims were two-time African champions Mazembe, who lost a group match 2-0 having beaten the Nigerians by the same score at home in the opening round of mini-league action.
Heartland launched their campaign last February with a 4-0 win over Liberian visitors Black Star and won by a similar score this month against compatriots Kano Pillars in the semi-finals.
FAR Rabat of Morocco, 2008 runners-up Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon, Monomotapa of Zimbabwe and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia were the other clubs conquered at the Owerri fortress.
Experienced Emeka Nwanna and rising star Uche Agba scored twice each in the first half against Pillars during a performance that stamped 1988 runners-up Heartland as potential successors to Al-Ahly of Egypt as African champions.
Agba also scored the lone second-leg goal in Kano to complete a surprisingly easy passage into the final and he shares the confidence of his team-mates and coach Kelechi Emetole ahead of the clash with the Congolese 'Crows'.
"I'm hoping we will defeat Mazembe home and away and that I will be among those who score," said the leading Heartland marksman in the Champions League this season with six goals.
"Mazembe are obviously a strong side to reach the final but we want this trophy badly and our aim is to build a commanding lead and make the second leg a formality," Agba said.
Captain and defensive general ThankGod Ike also oozes confidence: "We have met Mazembe twice and know how to contain them. The spirit in the camp is high and we must use this to our advantage in Owerri.
"Defeating clubs like Cotonsport and Etoile proves we are worthy finalists and it would be unfair to tag us as underdogs. We want to win by at least three goals at home."
While Heartland trained in the region where they are based, Mazembe coach Diego Garzitto from France opted for the relative obscurity of Zimbabwe and they defeated Harare clubs Dynamos and Monomotapa in warm-up fixtures.
Mazembe, who reached four consecutive finals from 1967 and won the first two, have the leading Champions League scorer this season in eight-goal Dioko Kaluyituka.
Captain Mabi Mputu has struck six, a relatively meagre return from a man who completed an amazing double two years ago by finishing leading scorer in the Champions League and the second-tier Confederation Cup.
The return match is scheduled for the southern Congolese city of Lubumbashi on 7 November with the winners collecting US$1.5m and a place in the year-end Fifa Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
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