With one game to go in the group stage of the CAF Champions League, just one place in the semi-finals remains to be filled after last years' finalists Al Ahly and Esperance, as well as Cameroonian club Coton Sport advanced on the weekend. The final place in the last four will go to either Orlando Pirates and AC Leopards and will be decided on the final matchday. The winner of the competition will represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year in Morocco.
Game of the week
AC Leopards 1-0 Orlando Pirates
Previously unheralded club AC Leopards' two-year fairytale run through continental competitions will continue for at least one more game after the Congolese club beat South African side Orlando Pirates 1-0 at home. Dimitri Bissik's goal from a corner kick in the 72nd minute took the CAF Confederation Cup holders on to seven points - equal with the Buccaneers, who struggled with playing conditions in Dolisie and failed to create enough chances. Previous results in Group A will ensure Pirates go through to the next round with a win at home against Al Ahly in their final game, irrespective of the Leopards' result. However, should the South Africans draw or lose, Leopards - who are away to Zamalek - will keep their dreams alive in the semi-finals.
Al Ahly continued their dominance of the Cairo derby against bitter rivals Zamalek as the Red Devils pushed to 16 matches their unbeaten run against the White Knights with a 4-2 win at the Red Sea resort of Gouna in a match played behind closed doors. Zamalek took an early lead through Omar Gaber, but Walid Soliman, Ahmed Abdel Zaher, Mohamed Aboutrika and Ahmed Fathi emphatically settled the match, before Ahmed Hassan grabbed a late consolation goal for the five-time African champions. Holders and record seven-time winners Ahly are on 10 points in Group A after the win and are guaranteed a place in the semi-finals as, even if Pirates and Leopards also finish the group stages on 10 points, Ahly's head-to-head results are better.
However, the Egyptians are not guaranteed of winning the group, which they will be looking to do in order to avoid Esperance in the last four. The Tunisian giants, who have reached the last three finals, have already clinched top spot in Group B after defeating Recreativo Libolo 3-2, with Ruben Gouveia scoring both for the visitors. Cameroonian club Coton Sport, meanwhile, did what they needed to do to join the Blood and Gold in the next round after securing a goalless draw in Abidjan against Sewe Sports. The 2008 finalists are on eight points, which leaves them four off Esperance but also four better off than the out-of-reach duo of Sewe and Recreativo. With Group B settled, next weekend's matches - the top two sides face off in Cameroon, and the bottom two in Angola - are largely meaningless.
Player of the week
Going into their match against Angolan champions Recreativo Libolo, Esperance knew that a win would see them become the first team to advance to the semi-finals. Joseph Yannick Ndjeng was the man who did most of the damage as the striker scored twice in the 3-2 victory. The Cameroon international rejoined the Tunisian giants from Sion after spending just over half a season with the Swiss club. The 23-year-old played in the 2011 and 2012 Champions League finals for the Blood and Gold. Esperance's other goal was also scored by a player who has just returned to the club from Sion: Oussama Darragi.
4 - The number of successive that Esperance have now qualified for the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League. The only other team to achieve that in the event's current format is Al Ahly, who made the last four every season between 2005 and 2008. TP Mazembe, then still known as TP Englebert, were in the semi-finals of the African Cup of Champion Clubs four years in a row, beginning in 1967.
What they said
"Concentration was a key element in our success. We were fully concentrated on winning because we wanted to avoid an uncertain future, especially considering that the final group stage round will be against Orlando Pirates in South Africa," Al Ahly coach Mohamed Youssef after his side's win over Zamalek.
Have your say
Can AC Leopards become the first-ever club from the Congo to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League? The last time a Congolese club advanced to the last four in the continent's showpiece event was in 1974, when CARA Brazzaville went on to win the Cup of Champion Clubs.