Al Ahly will make a belated start to the defence of their CAF Champions League title on Sunday, kicking off at home to Young Africans of Tanzania. The Egyptians, who have won three of the last four editions of the competition, had a bye in the first round and come in at the second stage alongside ten other clubs.
Ahly disappointed at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008 in December, when they were eliminated by Pachuca before losing to Adelaide United in the fifth-place match. And although they will be expected to brush aside their Tanzanian opponents in Cairo, which they have managed with ease previously, coach Manuel Jose has warned against complacency.
This year's tournament will be tough as clubs have been reinforcing their sides. We must be at our best to win the title again.
"This year's tournament will be tough as clubs have been reinforcing their sides. We must be at our best to win the title again," he said.
Also starting their campaign in the second round are Ajax Cape Town (South Africa), Kabylie (Algeria), Africa Sports and ASEC Abidjan (both Côte d'Ivoire), Al Ittihad (Libya), Coton Sport (Cameroon), Mazembe Englebert (Congo DR), Asante Kotoko (Ghana), Al Hilal (Sudan) and the 2007 winners Etoile Sahel (Tunisia).
Sahel will have home advantage for the first leg of their tie against ASO Chlef from neighbouring Algeria, and the Sousse outfit will be able to count of the return from injury of first-choice goalkeeper Aymen Methlouthi.
Last year's runners-up, Coton Sport, have a tricky tie against Manga Sport from Gabon, who caused an upset with a home-and-away defeat of Daring Club Motema Pembe in the first round. "Our results in our own league have not been satisfactory but we will be competitive in the Champions League," the Cameroonians' defender Boukar Makadji promised.
Players from Mazembe Englebert provided a sizeable contingent of the Congo DR side that won the CAF African Nations Championship on Sunday. After a week of celebrations, which included a parade through the teeming streets of Kinshasa and Goma, and the awarding of a Pajero Jeep to each of the squad members, Mazembe must get back down to work when they face Angolans Petro Atletico in Lubumbashi.
CAF Champions League, second round, first legs
Friday 13 March
Kampala City Council (Uganda) - SuperSport United (South Africa)
Al Ittihad (Libya) - Al Merreikh (Sudan)
Saturday 14 March
ASEC Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) - Etoile Filante (Burkina Faso)
Douanes (Senegal) - Kano Pillars (Nigeria)
Primeiro Agosto (Angola) - Canon Yaounde (Cameroon)
Etoile Sahel (Tunisia) - ASO Chlef (Algeria)
Ajax Cape Town (South Africa) - Monomotapa (Zimbabwe)
Sunday 15 March
Africa Sports (Côte d'Ivoire) - ZESCO United (Zambia)
Al Ahly (Egypt) - Young Africans (Tanzania)
Coton Sport (Cameroon) - Mangasport (Gabon)
Al Hilal (Sudan) - Stade Tamponnaise (Reunion Island)
Mazembe Englebert (Congo DR) - Petro Atletico (Angola)
Heartland (Nigeria) - Royal Armed Forces (Morocco)
Asante Kotoko (Ghana) - Ittihad Khemisset (Morocco)
JS Kabylie (Algeria) - Al Ahly Tripoli (Libya)
Club Africain (Tunisia) - Djoliba (Mali)