With the group stage of the CAF Champions League hitting the halfway point this weekend, traditional Egyptian powers Al Ahly and Zamalek are on the road needing to make up points in Group A. The Cairo rivals, with 12 African titles between them are currently three points behind South Africa's Orlando Pirates and AC Leopards of Congo. Group B is also wide open with all four clubs on three points through two matches. The top two finishers in each group qualify for the semi-finals with the winner of Africa's biggest club competition representing the continent at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco later this year.
Match of the week
Orlando Pirates - Zamalek
Pirates beat Ahly, the defending champions and most successful side in the event's history, by a resounding 3-0 scoreline on the last matchday. It ended the Red Devils' run of 23 unbeaten matches at home in the group stage, and the Buccaneers - champions in 1995 - will aim to build on that victory in El Gouna against the always-dangerous Zamalek at the Orlando Stadium. Although Pirates recently lost their opening league match against AmaZulu, coach Roger de Sa has a strong Champions League squad as he sets out to become only the second South African coach to win the showpiece event of African club football. Pirates' national team players were pulled from the Bafana Bafana side that lost an international friendly against Nigeria midweek to allow them to prepare for the clash. White Knights coach Helmi Toulan also received a boost ahead of the game as goalkeeper Abdelwahed El Sayed, veteran Ahmed Hassan and Ahmed Eid will be available for the match. El Sayed and Hassan missed the White Knights' last match over a pay dispute, while Eid had been nursing an injury.
Having picked up just a point from their two opening games, holders Al Ahly are in danger of failing to reach the semi-finals for just the third time in the last nine seasons. Their manager Mohamed Youssef must replace suspended midfielders Ahmed Fathi and Hossam Ashour, as well as goalkeeper Mosad Awad for the Congo trip as the trio instead made themselves available for Egypt's midweek friendly international against Uganda. Pharaohs coach Bob Bradley, however, took on the Cranes without several other Ahly players, including inspirational midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika and defender Wael Gomaa.
After beating 2011 champions Esperance in their opening group game, Recreativo do Libolo were brought back to earth by a 3-0 defeat in Côte d'Ivoire against Sewe Sport. The Angolan champions face another tough away trip as they travel to Cameroon for their match against Coton Sport. The home side will be assured of plenty of support as they have announced free entry for all fans. After losing their opening encounter in Angola 1-0, the Tunisian side came back with a 2-0 win against Coton Sport, and they are back on the road as they face Sewe Sport in the Ivorian capital Abidjan.
Player to watch
Ahmed Hassan is recognised as the most-capped male international player, having represented Egypt 184 times. Although the 38-year-old no longer competes for the Pharaohs, he remains an influential member of the Zamalek team, which he joined from cross-town rivals Al Ahly two years ago. Earlier in the month the midfielder signed a one-year contract extension, but he missed Zamalek's 1-0 defeat against Leopards in Congo over a pay dispute, which has since been settled. He will thus be available for the White Knights in South Africa against Group A leaders Orlando Pirates.
11 – The number of games that AC Leopards have gone unbeaten at home in African competition. The Congolese club, who sensationally won the CAF Confederations Cup last year, have won 10 of 11 matches they played at home. Their last defeat was in the first round of the CAF Confederations Cup in March 2012, when CS Sfaxien beat them 2-1. They will look to maintain their record against holders Al Ahly.
What they said
"We have practiced a quick switch from defence to attack, and we will need that to be able to win away from home. It will be a difficult game because our opponents have technically gifted and experienced players," Recreativo do Libolo coach Miller Gomes.
Have your say
Can the Egyptian giants, Zamalek and Al Ahly, bounce back from defeats in the last round of matches to stay in contention for the semi-finals?