Samson Siasia may be the front-runner in the race to take over as the next Nigeria national team coach, but he has more pressing matters on his mind right now.
The former Super Eagles striker, who played for his country at the 1994 FIFA World Cup™, is coach of Heartland FC, who have a difficult must-win assignment to negotiate in Cairo this weekend.
If they are to keep alive their chances of a semi-final berth in this year's CAF Champions League, the Owerri outfit must do what only two teams have done before in the long history of African club football - beat the mighty Al Ahly of Egypt on their home turf.
Siasia took over the Heartland reins in July, just days before the start of the group phase, having enhanced his reputation by coaching the under-23 side to the Olympic silver medal in Beijing two years ago, and the under-20 side to the final of the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Victory for Al Ahly at the Cairo International Stadium on Sunday night would end Heartland FC’s hopes of a second successive appearance in final four. "We are well aware that we need to win if we are to take ourselves to the semi-finals," Siasia told FIFA.com.
"I acknowledge it is a difficult task and we know it’s going to be a game that will be hard. But we are going to go out there and look to take our chances. It’s going to be a battle. We need to try and relax and do the things we are good at," he explained.
Siasia revealed his side will look to keep the Egyptians on the back foot and not give them a chance to relax and dictate the game. "Bottom line is we have to go out and work," added the 43-year-old coach.
Heartland have lost both of their previous away matches in Group B of this year’s CAF Champions League - narrow defeats to group leaders JS Kabylie of Algeria and Ismaili of Egypt. They have amassed four points from their four matches so far, and a win would take them above Al Ahly and into second place in the standings.
Siasia says a lot of his last minute preparations ahead of the game will be mental - convincing the players they can overcome the hostile conditions and achieve a rare feat by beating the Cairo giants, who are record winners of Africa’s top club competition.
"I want nothing to do with an attitude of going out with the approach of 'what happens, happens'. If the players want to be in my team they know they have to produce. I’ve always made them aware that the Champions League is a wonderful stage for a better opportunity elsewhere in their careers. They must go out and play and clubs from overseas will come and get them. We’ve talked a lot about it."
On a personal level, Sunday could also be a last chance for Siasia to make a mark during what would be a brief tenure at the club if he is take charge of Nigeria and their bid to qualify for the next CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
"It’s very different work to my last job with the junior national teams and there have been a lot of difficult situations to deal with," he explained. "I’ve tried to manage these as best I can in the circumstances. A lot of the players I know from when they played for me in the under-20 and under-23s and they have responded very well."