With just two rounds remaining in the group stages of the CAF Champions League all eight teams involved in the competition still have a chance to qualify for the semi-finals, but no club has yet secured a place in the next round. That is bound to change this weekend, as several clubs are on the verge of making it through, while others are up against the wall of elimination. The top two teams in each group advance to the semi-finals, with the winner of the competition representing Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year in Morocco.
Match of the week
Al Ahly - Zamalek
For Zamalek, five-time winners of the event, matches are running out if they want to extend their stay in the competition beyond the group stage. The White Knights have four points in Group A, three behind Orlando Pirates and city rivals Al Ahly, who won their seventh Champions League trophy last season. Zamalek coach Helmi Toulan is confident that his side will be stronger than they were in the 1-1 draw in the first group game against the Red Devils. "It is different this time around and it won't like the previous game. The team is now more complete and all the players are ready," the coach said. His Ahly counterpart Mohamed Youssef will be without Emad Moteab as the international striker is still undergoing rehabilitation after a back injury. The match will be played in the Red Sea resort of Gouna behind closed doors due to ongoing security concerns.
The other Group A game sees 1995 winners Orlando Pirates travel to Dolisie for their game against AC Leopards. The Buccaneers have chartered a plane for their trip to Congo to prevent them from having to endure a lengthy road journey, and they will be looking to do better than the scoreless draw against Leopards with which they opened the group phase. The Congolese have fallen three points off the pace of the group leaders after having lost their last two matches to Al Ahly by single goals. Pirates coach Roger de Sa will be without Bafana Bafana players Andile Jali and Thabo Matlaba, as well as Happy Jele. The trio are all suspended for the game against Leopards after picking up their second bookings of the group stage in Pirates' defeat in Egypt against Zamalek.
One of Africa's true giants, Esperance are in the driving seat to become the first club to qualify for the semi-finals. The Blood and Gold, who are on nine points in Group B, need just a point from their home game against Recreativo Libolo, who are third in the group with four points. The Angolan champions though, fancy their chances and beat the Tunisian club in their first game. “We want to win this game, and the team is very confident despite some limitations. We respect the opponents, but nothing will stop us achieving our objective of winning this game," Recreativo coach Miller Gomes said. Champions in 1994 and 2011, Esperance are trying to reach the final for the fourth year on the trot, and they top the table by two over Coton Sport. The Cameroon side are away to Sewe Sports, who are fourth in the group with three points and will be eliminated from the competition unless they win their match.
Player to watch
The last time Senzo Meyiwa travelled to Congo (albeit the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo), the goalkeeper saved two penalties against TP Mazembe to help Orlando Pirates advance to the group stage. With Pirates' opponents, AC Leopards, looking for all three points to boost their chances of a semi-final spot, the 25-year-old Meyiwa can expect the home team to play an attacking game, which in turn should give him plenty of opportunity to shine again.
7 - The number of times that Egyptian giants Al Ahly and Zamalek have met in the Champions League. The results have clearly gone Al Ahly's way, with Africa's most successful club winning four of the matches and the other three ending in draws. Zamalek won the only other game the two have played in a continental competition: A 1-0 victory in the Super Cup final in 1994.
What they said
"Africa is a tough place. You have to be streetwise, fight for every ball, and take your scoring chances," Pirates coach Roger De Sa on his team's tough trip to Leopards, who are notoriously difficult to beat at home.
Have your say
Can Zamalek finally beat city rivals Al Ahly in the Champions League and keep their Champions League hopes alive?