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Ethiopian Premier League defending champions St. George encounters its Malian counterpart Djoliba FC for a Champions League preliminary round first-leg home match. Djoliba is currently 5th in the Malian 16 side Premier League season, twenty points behind League leaders, Stade Malien.
With an emphatic 8-0 preliminary round two-leg aggregate victory over Zanzibar champions Jamhuri under their belts, the Saints showdown against the West African side means a tougher undertaking, yet not an impossible task. St. George should go for a big first leg win in front of home supporters today; otherwise the going will get tougher for the return leg against a tricky West African side. The Malian defending champions Djoliba FC is one of the two most dominant sides in Mali, winning the Malian league title on 22 occasions, second only to the current league leaders Stade Malien who top the league table with 43 points from 15 matches. With not a single professional player and only two National team regulars in the ranks of Djoliba, it appears they are in the same class as St. George, with the Ethiopian number one side boasting ten League titles in the past 15 seasons. It is not only about winning silverware, but also contributing the lion’s share at the national level. Eight Ethiopian National team players plus five professionals, including three that play for the Ugandan National side, St. George is highly expected to perform at international level better than at any other time. The German Head coach, Mike Krugger, is there to make sure “The Horse Men” are good enough to ride through to the group stage. Under Krugger’s guidance, the Saints came out victorious on their first preliminary round without conceding a single goal and bagging eight in two legs. However, club supporters believe Djoliba is the first real test for the German head coach. Currently not in such good form, with two draws in a row, St. George sits third in the table, four points behind the League leaders. All squad members, including target man Adane Girma, are in good health and home supporters are fervently hoping for today’s surprise away victory. “We will support our team in every way so that we could finish the job at home. A return leg win against a West African side is quite difficult, because we remember what happened against a Ghanaian side two years back,” said Yilma Seyoum, St. George supporter. The winner of the two meets Egyptian giants Zamalek in the next stage.