Egyptian holders Al Ahly seem assured of progressing to the final qualifying round for the CAF Champions League this weekend. However, a number of other big teams like Club Africain and JS Kabylie could fall by the wayside when the 16 return matches in the second elimination phase are staged.
Ahly virtually sealed a place among the last 16 after beating Young Africans of Tanzania 3-0 three weeks ago, with Egypt midfielder Mohamed Barakat scoring twice in Cairo. Pre-match boasts from the Dar es Salaam club about toppling the six-time African champions proved hollow, and Manuel Jose's team appear too experienced to let slip a comfortable advantage.
The Red Devils will will miss injured Ahmed Hassan, but their Portuguese coach is spoilt for choice in midfield with Mohamed Aboutraika, Barakat and Gilberto among his options.
Young Africans defender Nadir 'Cannavaro' Haroub oozes optimism and refuses to accept that the club which scored 14 goals against a Comoros Islands team in the first qualifying round cannot defy the odds. "I consider this a mission possible. It will be tricky to score four goals against the champions, but the squad are focused and determined to overcome the odds," Haroub declared.
Heavyweights have it all to do
Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon, surprise finalists last year, take a fragile 2-1 lead to Mangasport, who will be hoping to complete a great week for Gabon. The central African nation caused the biggest upset of the African Zone qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM last weekend by winning in Morocco, despite being without star striker Daniel Cousin from English Premier League side Hull City.
The Panthers' line-up included Mangasport defender Rodrigue Moundounga and another player from the club, midfielder Jean Stephane Achy, was an unused substitute in Casablanca. Garoua needed a stoppage-time goal to win the first leg, and are feeling the departure after their 2008 run of goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda to Romania, midfielder Ousmaila Baba to Tunisia and top scorer Daouda Kamilou to Libya.
Several former champions are staring at elimination, with Club Africain and Kabylie in gravest danger after suffering shock 2-1 home defeats. The former visit Djoliba of Mali, where they forced a goalless draw last year in the CAF Confederation Cup, and the Algerians meet Al Ahly of Libya in Tripoli knowing they must score at least twice to have any hope.
FAR Rabat, the first Moroccan club to conquer Africa, have to overhaul a 3-1 deficit when they entertain Heartland of Nigeria, while 2007 champions Etoile Sahel of Tunisia take a slender 2-1 advantage over ASO Chlef to Algeria.
Asante Kotoko of Ghana and Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas bring two-goal leads to Al-Ittihad Khemisset of Morocco and Burkina Faso's Etoile Filante respectively, and possess the experience to get through.
Favourites to progress among the former African kings include Canon Yaounde of Cameroon, one goal up against visiting Primerio Agosto of Angola, and DR Congo's Tout Puissant Mazembe, who take a 3-0 lead over Petro Atletico to Luanda.