The second round of group stage matches in the CAF Champions League 2011 is of special importance as all eight teams are still searching for their first win following a clean sweep of draws from the first round match-ups a fortnight ago. With three points now potentially vital for any side aspiring to make the semi-finals, FIFA.com takes a closer look at matchday two in Africa's showpiece club competition.
Pick your winner in Group A
Cameroon's Cotonsport Garoua host Nigeria’s two-time tournament winners Enyimba in Group A’s most hotly anticipated encounter. The two sides met twice during the 2008 CAF Champions League, with Enyimba winning the first clash only to be trounced 3-0 in the return leg.
In their bid to revisit their victory, Cotonsport will rely heavily on Andre Ndame, Nack Balokong and Epassi Ewonde, who were instrumental in guiding the side to a valuable goalless draw against Raja Casablanca on matchday one.
Enyimba’s task is not made any easier by the absence of defender Emmanuel Anyanwu, who is currently competing in the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia.
In Group A’s other contest in Omdurman, hosts Al Hilal take on Raja Casablanca. The Sudanese giants will hope that the home advantage gets them three points to add to the single point they took from their first game against Enyimba.
Al Hilal’s Serbian coach Milutin Sredojevic will be looking for a repeat performance from his Zimbabwean striker Edward Sadomba, who scored both goals in their 2-2 draw with Enyimba, while he also welcomes back defensive duo Sami Abdullah and Saif Masawi who missed the trip to Nigeria. Though admitting that Raja Casablanca are no pushovers, the 41-year-old coach thinks his team has what it takes to triumph on Friday:
“The four draws in the first round showed that the two groups are pretty evenly matched. We drew away, and now we’ve got the perfect opportunity to put on a great display and come away with a positive result.”
“Raja are an excellent outfit and one of the giants of African football,” Sredojevic continued. “In the first round they drew at home, which means they’ll be looking to make a strong statement against us. We respect them, sure, but we respect ourselves as well, and I think we’ll take our chance on Friday and give our home crowd the victory they want.”
Group B simmers
The outcome of Group B’s second round of matches is just as hard to predict, but what is certain is that both games will be fought tooth and nail, and none more so than when Tunisia’s Esperance ST take on Egypt giants Al Ahly in a replay of last year's heated semi-final when the Tunisians went through on away goals.
The decision by local authorities to ban crowds at league games and the Tunisian President Cup will have a knock-on effect for this game, limiting attendance at the Stade 7 Novembre in Rades to 1,000.
Hampered by the lack of support, Esperance also go into the game without a number of their first-choice players. Cameroonian defender Yaya Banana is currently competing with his national side at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia, while Mohamed Ben Mansour and Mohamed Bachtobji are injured and Youssef Msakni is suspended.
Coach Nabil Maaloul is well aware of the problems he faces: “Missing so many players always affects your ability to take on a strong opponent, but we’ll try to find a solution to our problem and choose competitive alternatives.”
“Al Ahly are a huge club,” he continued. “They’re one of the biggest names in the competition, but we hope to exploit the fact we’re playing at home and come away with the win. That said, the outcome of this game won’t be the final word on who qualifies in the end, because both sides are quite evenly matched.”
While Al Ahly’s ranks are also depleted, with strikers Mohamed Barakat and Dominique Da Silva out through injury, they can call on Mohamed Fadl, Mohamed Shawky and Sherif Ekrami after extended layoffs.
In the other Group B game between Wydad Casablanca and MC Alger at the Stade Mohamed V, Wydad will be looking to build on their high scoring 3-3 draw against Al Ahly in Cairo.
Swiss coach Michel Decastle will be hoping forward Mouhssine Iajour can reprise a first round performance that saw him knock two past Egypt’s Red Devils, while MC Alger will also be looking for a win, having failed to capitalise on their home advantage in a 1-1 draw with Esperance first time out.