Akwa United head coach Abdu Maikaba, says he expects a bright start to the 2018 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season.
Maikaba, who joined from Wikki Tourists at the start of last season, struggled with the team in the opening matchdays, languishing in the lower half of the log, before managing to stage an unprecedented comeback to finish fourth behind Plateau United, MFM FC and Enyimba. They would later go on to win the Aiteo Cup.
The Akwa United trainer, who recently was appointed coach of the Nigerian national U-20 team, told npfl.ng, in an exclusive chat, he is lookong forward to a better season. He however admitted his team are faced with challenges in defence and upfront.
Goal drought in pre-season
"I was satisfied with the team at some point, but what really disturbed me all through the pre-season games in Kano was our inability to score goals. We only scored two goals in one of 10 games we played. Most of the players did not have their minds fixed on the games, because they needed a break after a tedious season.
"We observed that we needed a natural goalscorer to resolve our challenges upfront. This forced us to go for a striker in the quality of Victor Mbaoma, who scored 10 goals for Remo Stars last season. We believe he will add value to the team upfront.
"We are still expecting about three players, but most importantly, we need a central defender, to serve as a backup to the three we have already, most especially on the continent. Though we won't be able to register such player (for the CAF Confederation Cup), because registration has closed. We have to wait and see if we can qualify for the group stage, after three rounds of matches.
Readiness for new season
"I can say we are almost ready for start of the season. I believe in the next couple of days, we will be fully ready for a competitive game.
"We will try our best to push the team to make sure we resolve challenges in all departments. We will play a grade C and grade A friendly game before the start of the season. The friendly (grade A) will be played early next week at the mainbowl, because some of the new players need to acquaint themselves with the stadium. We will x-ray their performance after the games, observe lapses and effect corrections before our first league game," Maikaba said.
Akwa United open their campaign at home to Rangers of Enugu at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo on January 14