Just two matches separate the 16 remaining teams in the CAF Champions League from reaching the lucrative group stage of Africa’s premier club cup competition. The eight winners of the two-legged second round ties advance to the group stage, while the losers will continue playing in the CAF Confederation Cup. The weekend's upcoming fixtures are previewed here.
Match of the week
Al Ahly Benghazi - Al Ahly Cairo
Holders Al Ahly, who needed a penalty shoot-out to overcome Tanzanian club Young Africans in the last round, are away to their Libyan namesakes in the first leg, but security concerns mean the game will be held in Tunisia. The Cairo club lost their final league match ahead of the continental clash 1-0 against Dakhleya, prompting coach Mohamed Youssef to say he will have to work hard to get the Red Devils ready for the first leg. “I will do my best to urge my players to forget the defeat and prepare well for Ahly Benghazi, as we only have a few days." Youssef had some good news ahead of the trip though, as defender Ramy Rabia is back in the squad after recovering from an injury. The Libyan side is coached by veteran Egyptian coach Tarek El-Ashri, who knows what it is like to beat the eight-time African champions as he won the Egypt Cup with Haras El Hodood in 2010, topping Al Ahly in the final.
As can be expected from this stage of the competition, there are several mouth-watering ties in the second round. AC Leopards, who last season stunned African football fans by coming agonisingly close to securing a semi-final place in the competition, take on Sudanese club Al Hilal, who were in the last four in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Another club with a rich Champions League history, four-time winners TP Mazembe, are away to Ivorian club Sewe Sport, while the other side from the DR Congo, AS Vita Club, face South African team Kaizer Chiefs, who are also challenging for a South African double. Their coach Stuart Baxter said he can’t afford to rest his players in any of the three competitions they are involved in. “We just have to admit that every game is vital,” Baxter said recently.
Also remaining with two clubs in the competition is Tunisia. Esperance, who have reached the final in three of the last four seasons, travel to Mali for their game against AS Real Bamako. Esperance coach Ruud Krol will be without the injured Joseph Yannick Ndjeng and Sameh Derbali, as well as Iheb Msakni, who is serving a suspension. Last year's Confederation Cup winner CS Sfaxien, are away to Guinean club Horoya, who previously had never made it passed the first round of the competition. ES Setif, who are the sole team flying the Algerian flag after USM El Harrach withdrew, take on Coton Sport at home in the first leg. The Cameroon club qualified for the semi-final last season and fancy their chances against the 1988 champions.
Player to watch
In the absence of star striker Evans Kangwa, who missed the registration deadline for the competition by a few weeks, Nkana FC will be looking for goals from Zambian international Ronald Kampamba, who said ahead of their clash against Zamalek that they do not fear the Cairo giants. The striker has already scored four goals in the competition this year and fans are hoping he can add more against the Cairo giants.
11 - The number of teams left of the final 16 - AS Real Bamako, Esperance, CS Sfaxien, ES Setif, Coton Sport, Al Hilal, TP Mazembe, AS Vita, Al Ahly, Zamalek, Nkana FC - that have reached the final of Africa's biggest club competition at least once in their history.
What they said
"My players are eager to win the away game with Nkana FC in order to make the mission in Cairo in the second leg easier," Zamalek coach Ahmed Hossam 'Mido'.
Have your say
Will Egyptian clubs Al Ahly and Zamalek make it three in a row and advance to the group phase of the competition once again?