With Esperance guaranteed to finish on top of the CAF Champions League's Group A, all eyes are on Group B on the final matchday to see which team can avoid the defending champions in the semi-finals. TP Mazembe and Al Ahly are already qualified, but the former have the inside edge on topping the table after they beat the Egyptians 2-0 a fortnight ago. Both sides have ten points from five matches, but the Congolese hold the advantage based on head-to-head results, which they hope will carry them through to meet Nigeria's Sunshine Stars, who are off this weekend but sure to finish second in Group A.
The semi-finals and finals are both two-legged affairs played home and away in October and November respectively. The winner of the tournament qualifies for FIFA Club World Cup in Japan at the end of the year.
Match of the week
Al Ahly – Zamalek
With 11 Champions League titles between them, the Egyptian giants will meet once again for bragging rights on Sunday in Alexandria. Unfortunately, there is nothing more on the line for the White side of Cairo, who have managed just a single point in Group B and are sure to finish bottom of the table. The Red Devils beat Zamalek 1-0 in July with the only goal coming from Mohamed Aboutrika, who will not play again in the Champions League after being suspended for refusing to compete in the recent Super Cup. Coach Hossam El Badry has also confirmed that he will not risk Wael Gomaa or Ahmed Fathi, who would have been suspended with another caution in the group stage. He will however welcome back forwards Emad Meteab and Fabio Junior as well as centre-half Mohamed Naguib, all returning from injury.
No matter the result in Cairo, Mazembe know that a win against Berekum Chelsea will keep them top of the table and away from Esperance until potentially the final. The Ghanaians have proven themselves tough competition in their first Champions League, winning six points in the group and losing only away to Ahly. They came from two goals back to draw 2-2 in Lubumbashi in July with tournament top scorer Emmanuel Clottey scoring both goals. Clottey has been the subject of many of the headlines - including this week with his announced transfer to Esperance to take place in December - but it will be Chelsea's defence under the most pressure against the free-attacking Congolese. Strikers Tresor Mabi Mputu and Mbwana Samata have been in rampant form of late for Mazembe, with the latter scoring in four of the five group matches and the former knocking in a brace in the other.
The drama in Group A was essentially killed off by the disqualification of Etoile du Sahel for crowd trouble against Esperance in the middle of August. The nullification of their results left their Tunisian compatriots and Sunshine Stars both qualified for the last four, and the Blood and Gold wrapped up the top spot with a defeat of the Nigerians a fortnight ago in Rades. On Friday, Esperance will take their 19-match continental unbeaten streak to Algeria where ASO Chlef is playing strictly for pride after failing to win a point in the group stage thus far. Chlef did however push the holders mightily in July with two Esperance goals in the final five minutes salvaging a 3-2 win.
Player to watch
Along with Samata and Mputu, Mazembe's Deo Kanda has been hitting lethal form lately. He confidently converted at the end of a wonderful move against Ahly on the last matchday. He also scored a fantastic blast for Congo DR in CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifying over the weekend against Equatorial Guinea.
2 – The number of goals needed by Emmanuel Clottey to break the single-season scoring record in the Champions League. Linked to a variety of clubs before settling on Esperance, Clottey scored 12 times in his first nine continental matches, but he has failed to find the net in his last two contests, leaving him stuck a goal behind the record set by Enyimba’s Stephen Worgu five years ago.
What they said
"To retain our title, we have to beat the best teams. Ahly and Mazembe are good sides that deserve to be in the last four, but we are not scared of anyone. If my players are 100 per-cent focused, we can beat any African team,” Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul.
Have your say
Can Clottey score a brace against Mazembe to set a new scoring record?