CAF Champions League preview
Reigning African champions TP Mazembe Englebert play away from home for the second successive match in defence of their CAF Champions League title, needing to overcome a one goal deficit against Rwandan opposition in their upcoming second round, second leg match.
Mazembe are not exactly on inhospitable territory this Sunday but have had to switch their home match from the Kenya Stadium in Lubumbashi to the capital Kinshasa, some 1500km away. Lubumbashi is where Mazembe ended a 40-year drought last November to carry Africa’s top club prize but their defence of the title is in jeopardy as they go to the Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa.
The rivalry between the clubs from Congo’s two biggest cities is intense and APR FC of Rwanda can be sure of as much support as Mazembe will receive from the locals at the weekend. It will undoubtedly help the cause of the Kigali-based team, who have a slim 1-0 lead from the first leg where they scored late in the game.
Mazembe defender Pamphile Mihayo has voiced their concerned saying: “It is not easy to play away from home but I think the win did flatter our Rwandese opponent. But we will need to work to make sure of our qualification for the next round.” Mazembe had a bye through the first round of this year’s competition and need only get through one more round after this to ensure they play again in the league phase of the competition.
But APR FC have promised some stout resistance. “Morale in the team is high and the players are fit and raring to go so there is no reason why I should not be confident,” said their Dutch coach Erik ten Paske.
Egyptian giants face deficit
Mazembe’s precarious position is matched by that of their predecessor as champions, Al Ahly of Egypt. They host Gunners FC of Zimbabwe in Cairo on Friday, also needing to overcome a 1-0 deficit. Gunners, playing in the Champions League for the first time, have late concerns over captain Ramson Zhuwawo and winger Ali Sadiki but are confident they will recover in time from niggling injuries.
The Cairo giants are expected to restore the 35-year-old Ahmed Hassan to the starting line-up. The midfielder, chosen as the best player at the recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals in Angola, has been rested for recent matches because coach Hossam Al Badri feels the influential Hassan is fatigued.
Three former continental club champions are perilously close to elimination, most notably Cameroon’s Union Douala, who are two goals down travelling away to Entente Setif in Algeria. Their trip to north Africa also hit visa snags along the way in Morocco, holding up their arrival for Friday’s match in Setif. Union won Africa’s top club prize in 1979. Club Africain of Tunisia failed to win at home against fellow former champions JS Kabylie and are also staring at elimination when they meet in Tizi Ouzou, also on Friday.
The biggest scalp could be Raja Casablanca as the Morocco champions travel to Angola to meet Petro Atletico on Sunday. A 1-1 draw in Casablanca in the first leg leaves one of the pre-competition favourites facing early elimination, though it is a fate which has befallen Raja several times in recent years.
CAF Champions League second round, second leg fixtures (first leg results in brackets)
In Cairo: Al Ahli (Egypt) v Gunners (Zimbabwe) (0-1)
In Gaborone: Gaborone United (Botswana) v Curepipe Starlight (Mauritius) (3-0)
In Tizi Ouzou: JS Kabylie (Algeria) v Club Africain (Tunisia) (1-1)
In El Jadida: Difaa El Jadida (Morocco) v Al Ittihad (Libya) (1-1)
In Setif: Entente Setif (Algeria) v Union Douala (Cameroon) (2-0)
In Khartoum: Al Merreikh (Sudan) v Gazelle FC (Chad) (1-1)
In Maputo: Ferroviario Maputo (Mozambique) v SuperSport United (South Africa) (0-3)
In Ouagadougou: ASFA Yennenga (Burkina Faso) v Esperance (Tunisia) (1-4)
In Tampon: Stade Tamponnaise (Reunion) v Ismailia (Egypt) (1-3)
In Abidjan: ASEC Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) v Zanaco (Zambia) (0-1)
In Harare: Dynamos (Zimbabwe) v FC St Eloi Lupopo (Congo DR) (1-0)
In Kinshasa: TP Mazembe Englebert (Congo DR) v APR FC (Rwanda) (0-1)
In Khartoum: Al Hilal (Sudan) v Africa Sports (Côte d'Ivoire) (0-0)
In Luanda: Petro Atletico (Angola) v Raja Casablanca (Morocco) (1-1)
In Owerri: Heartland FC (Nigeria) v Tiko United (Cameroon) (2-2)
In Dakar: ASC Linguere (Senegal) v Djoliba (Mali) (0-1)