It will be a weekend of drama in African club football as the remaining 16 teams in the CAF Champions League complete the second leg of their ties, which will determine the participants in the lucrative eight-club group stage. While several teams look to have done enough to advance already, the competition's most successful team Al Ahly must overturn a single-goal deficit.
Game of the week
Coton Sport – Berekum Chelsea
Cameroon's Coton Sport of Garoua have the pedigree in what should be a nail-biting battle, having dominated their domestic league for the last decade and reached the final of the Champions League in 2008, but they will be wary of giving up an away goal to the up-and-coming Ghanaians after the first leg ended scoreless. The attack-minded underdogs had put five past each of their previous two opponents, most notably three-time continental champions Raja Casablanca of Morocco, so they have to like their chances of finding the net. But their Dutch coach Hans van der Pluijm has been playing down the pressure, saying that “anything is possible.” On the flip-side, Coton's French coach Robert Boivin says he is “very confident” his team will win at home and advance to the group stage for the second consecutive year.
The other matches
Nigeria's remaining representatives Sunshine Stars will have the advantage of an away goal as they host Djoliba of Mali after a 1-1 draw in the opening match. The Malians have more experience in this competition, but debutantes Stars did put some big matches under their belt in reaching the semi-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup last term. The Nigerians will be able to call upon captain Oboabona Godfrey and Izu Azuka, who had been away with the national team, and they are hoping attacking midfielder Ibrahim Ajani can find his lost scoring boots.
Stars had a worrying run-up to the match after they were stuck in Bamako following the first leg a fortnight ago. Violence shut the airport and left much of the team closeted in their hotel. It was a similar fate for Al Ahly, who lost to Stade Malien 1-0 and also were delayed in their trip home. Because of that, CAF has delayed the second leg of Ahly's tie to Monday, allowing the six-time continental champions to play a friendly midweek against a local opponent – a necessary warm-up given the suspension of Egypt's domestic football. Faced with having to overturn the deficit, all does not seem well with the African royalty. They were denied the possibility of playing the match in front of their supporters, and instead will have to continue to make due with an empty stadium following February's Port Said tragedy. There also has been some unrest concerning the stripping of the captaincy from Hossam Ghaly, who again will not be on the team sheet. Veteran defender Wael Gomaa, who went off injured early in the first leg, will also miss out with a knee problem.
Ahly's Egyptian rivals Zamalek have a less worrying home leg after they beat Morocco's Maghreb de Fes 2-0 away. The Whites will be without suspended striker Razak Omotoyossi, but the five-time African champions will be heavily favoured to hold off the comeback aspirations of CAF Confederation Cup and Super Cup champions MAS. Similarly, the Tunisian duo of holders Esperance and Etoile du Sahel would seem to have their tickets to the group stage booked after 6-0 and 4-1 victories in the first leg over Dynamos and AFAD Djekanou respectively. Four-time champions TP Mazembe will be wary of a difficult trip despite their 2-0 home victory over Sudan's Al Merreikh, while it's all to play for when Algeria's ASO Chlef host the other Sudanese team Al Hilal, who will be without disciplined veteran Haitham Mustafa.
Player to watch
With Egyptian football in a confusing period, the status of famous Zamalek son Mido should be cleared up this weekend when the former Tottenham, Marseille and Ajax forward figures to make his return to the side against MAS. With a flair for the dramatic, Mido, who was rumoured to be on his way out of the club, could have something to prove as the Whites battle to keep momentum in a trying time.
6 – The number of years it has been since a Ghanaian club reached the group stage. In 2006, both of Ghana's big clubs, Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak, went out in the last eight.
What they said
“We are not getting carried away by the result from the first leg. On our soil, in front of our fans, we are approaching this match with all of the seriousness and focus needed to achieve victory,” Stars coach Gbenga Ogunbote ahead of their match with Djoliba.
Have your say
Any big upsets in the making this weekend?