The battle for supremacy in the CAF African Champions League will resume this weekend when reigning African club champions TP Mazembe host on-form Group A leaders Esperance, while Egyptians Al Ahly travel to Algeria to face JS Kabylie in crucial Group B encounter.
Both matches have the capacity to alter the status quo in the group standings and, by the end of the weekend, we might well have different faces at the helm of both Group A and B. JS Kabaylie's match against Egyptian giants Al-Ahly has certainly grabbed many people’s attention. JS Kabylie – the current leaders of Group A - square up to their second-placed rivals in a North African derby on Sunday that will rekindle the rivalry between the two outfits.
Al Ahly have been hit by a spate of injuries that have affected their prepareations. Doubtful for the game are Mhamed Fadl and Hossam Ashour, but the duo are racing against time to gain full fitness. The football rivalry between the two nations is well documented and both camps have been trading words in an attempt to gain a psychological advantage.
Kabylie have an impeccable record in their group having won their first two games, their last victory being a triumphant outing against Heartland of Nigeria. Boasting with a record of having won the trophy six times, the Red Devils of Cairo last won the trophy two years ago. Ahly coach, Hossam Al-Badri is hoping for a much improved performance from his side away from home. “The most important thing for us is to get the results," he said. "We will be up against a very good side away from home, but we need to keep on working harder."
Meanwhile, holders TP Mazembe will have an opportunity to claim pole position in Group A when they meet Esperance. Mazembe’s record was blemished by ES de Setif a fortnight ago when the Congolese side was only managed to salvage a draw thanks to a late goal from Tresor Mputu.
Two weeks back, Esperance consolidated their lead in their group by edging Zimbabwean side Dynamos. It’s been 16 years since the Tunisians ascended to the summit of African football by winning the Champions League, beating Zamalek in the final.
Dynamos, Zimbabwe’s self-styled ‘Glamour Boys’, who are yet to register a point in this competition, will host Algerian side ES Setif at home, where a win is paramount to keep their hopes of advancing to the last four. Despite a slow start that has left them rock bottom of their group, Dynamos coach Elvis Chiweshe is hoping for a reversal of fortunes this weekend.
“We have to play better and we know that," he conceded. "We haven’t really enjoyed a good start but our players are determined to turn things around. We still have a long way to go and I believe it’s not late to bounce back. All we need is to get some results."
Heartland will face Egypt's Ismaily in another Group B encounter, with coach Samson Siasia predicting a tough encounter for the Nigerian side. However, Siasia, who has been linked with the Nigeria national team's head coach position, will have a lot on his mind. Heartland have, after all, only registered one point in their opening two matches.
“Going to Egypt and getting maximum points won’t be easy for my team, but we need results in this game," Siasia said. "We know they are a strong side and although they haven’t been doing well, but they will be dangerous.”