Between Egyptian club Zamalek, Tunisia's Esperance and TP Mazembe from the DR Congo, a total of 11 CAF Champions League - and its predecessor, the Champions Cup - titles have been won, and the three clubs were favourites at the start of the group phase of the 2014 competition. However, after losing their opening games, the powerful trio are now under pressure to get a result in the second round of matches in order to stay on course for places in the semi-finals. The eventual winner of the competition will represent the continent in December's FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.
Match of the week
TP Mazembe - Vita Club
The Group A game in Lubumbashi between TP Mazembe and Vita Club is the first of four matches in the group stages featuring teams from the same country and comes just two weeks after more than a dozen fans were tragically killed during a stampede at a league game between the two clubs. Even though four-time champions Mazembe, who were stunned by Al Hilal of Sudan in their opening game, are under pressure to win, chairman Moise Katumbi made an impassioned plea for a peaceful game. “I am going to congratulate Vita Club for their victory against Zamalek. I call on as many fans to come to the game, but I urge all our supporters to show, as they have in the past, that there will be fair play. They have shown that they love their neighbours and the most important thing is to avoid any incident. A football game is not a war and the most important thing is to promote neighbourly love.” Vita's away record in the Champions League is anything but good, and Mazembe will fancy their chances of earning three points at the fortress-like Stade TP Mazembe.
The other Group A game sees Zamalek, who were beaten 2-1 in Kinshasa by Vita Club in their first game, at home to Al Hilal. The Cairo giants, whose five Champions League titles are second only to city rivals Al Ahly's eight, are looking for three points to stay in the hunt for a semi-final place. Former Egyptian international Mido, who took over the coaching of the club earlier this year, is confident his side will advance to the next round. "I'm betting on our qualification from this group and to the final after a lengthy absence," the 31-year-old rookie coach said.
In Group B, Tunisia's Esperance are away to Al Ahly Benghazi in a match that will be played in Khartoum due to the political situation in Libya. Like their opponents, Al Ahly go into the match with no points after being beaten 3-1 by CS Sfaxien in their first match. The Libyan club, who knocked out title holders Al Ahly from Cairo in the previous knock-out round, will be looking to top scorer Edward Sadomba for the goals they need to secure their first-ever victory in the CAF Champions League group stage. The two winners from the opening round, Setif and Sfaxien, face each other in Setif, with the home side's coach Kheireddine Madoui saying that his side had played a “tactically perfect game” away to Esperance.
Player to watch
Fertani Sassi is one of the talented youngsters who is hoping to bring back Tunisian football to its former glory days. Having just turned 22, the defensive midfielder has established himself in the CS Sfaxien side that last year won the Tunisian league and the CAF Confederation Cup, beating TP Mazembe over the two-legged final. Sassi, who also featured for the Carthage Eagles in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying rounds, has played all his professional football for the club nicknamed 'Juventus Al Arab'.
1 – The number of times DR Congo team Vita Club have won away from home in the Champions League in 11 matches. That was last year, when they beat Dynamic Togolais 2-1 in Lome. Their overall record includes three draws, seven losses and a minus-14 goal difference. Their away record in the tournament's predecessor, the Champions Cup - which they won in 1973 and finished second in 1981 - was only slightly better as they recorded five wins and three draws from 18 matches.
What they said
"Our victory against TP Mazembe was enormous for our fans. You can't ask for more than winning against a four time-African champion. It is a dream experiencing the Champions League. I hope we make it as tough for Zamalek as we made it for Mazembe,” Al Hilal's Sierra Leonean international defender David Simbo said.
Have your say
Can Algerian club ES Setif collect a second Tunisian scalp in a row and defeat CS Sfaxien to maintain a 100 per cent record and control of Group B?