Pressure mounts in penultimate round
© AFP

After Etoile du Sahel’s disqualification from the CAF Champions League because of crowd trouble, the semi-finals could be completely set after this weekend’s penultimate round of group stage action.The top two teams in each group advance to the last four and keep alive their chance of reaching the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012.

Game of the week
TP Mazembe - Al Ahly
Group B’s top two teams will battle it out at the Stade TP Mazembe on Sunday in Lubumbashi, and if results go the right way, both could be among the last four by the end of the 90 minutes. The hosts have come back from a slow start to the group stage, beating Ahly’s Cairo rivals Zamalek twice after taking just a single point from their first two contests. The Crows are three points behind the table-topping Egyptians, who are unbeaten on ten and sure to advance if they avoid defeat. The six-time champions, who last lifted the trophy in 2008, beat the 2009 and 2010 winners 2-1 in Cairo in July behind Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagy’s goal in second half injury time. Ahly will be without the suspended midfield pair of Sayed Mowad and Mohamed Barakat, while their opponents should be able to call on the previously injured Zambian duo of Nathan Sinkala and Stophira Sunzu.

Other matches
Berekum Chelsea are the other side fighting to stay in the Group B reckoning, and the Ghanaian debutantes face the tall task of bidding for maximum points at five-time champions Zamalek in Cairo. Named for England’s champions of Europe, the surprising newcomers will need nerves of steel in the Military Stadium, where the Whites will be driven to perform well playing in front of their supporters for the first time since February’s Port Said disaster threw Egyptian football into disarray. In third place two points behind Mazembe, the visiting Blues could be eliminated even with a draw if the Congolese beat Ahly. Zamalek have lost all four of their four group contests, including their opener to Chelsea 3-2 in Accra despite twice having the lead in that match.

New Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira is already feeling some pressure after losing his first match a fortnight ago, and the club continue to be in disarray ahead of the start of the new league season. Veteran Ahmed Hassan and Benin striker Razak Omotoyossi both seem on their way out of the club, leaving Burkina Faso international Abdoulaye Cisse as the key attacker for the Egyptians. On the flip side, the Ghanaians will once again be relying on tournament top scorer Emmanuel Clottey, who is looking to add to his 12 goals. At the other end, there might be some question marks as Chelsea will be missing starting goalkeeper Ernest Sowah, who has been diagnosed with malaria.

Group A has been settled since African governing body CAF stripped Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel of their results following crowd trouble in Sousse that saw the 18 August match against compatriots Esperance cancelled 20 minutes early. The disqualification leaves Esperance and Nigeria’s Sunshine Stars certain of spots in the last four and takes the edge off Sunday’s contest between the two on the outskirts of Tunis. Both sides have six points and are now angling simply to see who will finish top of the table and thus play the runner-up from Group B in the semi-finals. Ironically the negation of Sahel’s matches hurts Esperance most since they had already taken six points from two matches against their fellow countrymen. Already eliminated, pointless ASO Chlef of Algeria will rest in lieu of their contest against ESS.

Player to watch
Tresor Mabi Mputu has been in fine form for Mazembe, scoring six times so far in the competition, and he set up both goals on the last matchday against Zamalek, including one to his strike partner Tanzanian Mbwana Samata, who has scored three times during the group stage.

The stat
12 -
The number of years since a Ghanaian club advanced past the group stage. Hearts of Oak won the event in 2000.

What they said
“We need to focus on beating Zamalek and not worry about the result of Mazembe and Ahly. It will be a difficult match to win, but we must if we want to achieve our goal of reaching the semi-final,” Berekum Chelsea coach Hans van der Pluijm.

Have your say
Can Chelsea sneak into the last four?