Kabylie, Maghreb aiming to avoid upsets

JS Kabylie face an unexpectedly early examination of their power when the CAF Confederation Cup second-round qualifiers continue this weekend. Goals were expected to flow when the Canaries hosted little-known Mauritanians Tevragh Zeina, but all they could manage was one from Chemseddine Nessakh.

A second-leg defeat in Nouakchott would constitute one of the biggest shocks since the second-tier African club competition was launched seven years ago, and leave Algeria without a contendor as CA Batna tumbled at the first hurdle. Continental rookies Tevragh have already sprung one surprise by eliminating AS Real of Mali thanks to a Ely Cheikh Ould Voulani goal in Bamako, following a goalless first encounter.

Kabylie won the elite CAF Champions League twice and the CAF Cup - the forerunner to the Confederation Cup - a record three consecutive times and have also claimed countless domestic and regional titles. The North Africans had eventual champions TP Mazembe against the ropes in the CAF Champions League semi-finals last year only to leak two late goals, and they could not undo the damage in the return encounter.

Eoile, Ismaily in strong positions
There are two other former African champions among the 32 contenders for a $660,000 first prize, and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia and Egyptians Ismaily are better placed than Kabylie. A second-half brace from Brazilian midfielder Danilo Petroli secured a 3-0 victory for 2007 winners Etoile over AshantiGold of Ghana in Mediterranean resort Sousse and the Red Devils look set for the last-16 round.

Ismaily zoomed into overdrive against Kenyan visitors Sofapaka with early goals from Mohamed Abougreisha and national team midfield star Hosny Abd Rabou, then a lack of match practice told and there was no further scoring. Sofapaka have not found the net in three Confederation Cup matches this year and this suggests the east Africans will struggle to breach a traditionally well organised defence backed by Egypt's reserve goalkeeper Mohamed Sobhi.

Title holders FUS Rabat of Morocco mocked the form book last December by defeating two-time Cup winners CS Sfaxien in Tunisia to capture the trophy, and a 2-0 home win over Toure Kounda of Senegal should ensure they progress.

Fellow Moroccan teams are less well placed, with Maghreb Fes travelling to Niger after being held 0-0 by Sahel and Difaa Al-Jadida needing goals following a 2-0 loss to Olympique Beja in Tunisia.