Ghanaians headline African club action
AshantiGold have been given a demanding assignment this weekend as they try to reverse the plummeting fortunes of Ghana in African club competitions.
The mining company team travel to Mediterranean resort Sousse for an CAF Confederation Cup second round, first leg duel with Etoile Sahel of Tunisia that is the pick of a 15-fixture schedule.
Etoile are the only club to win all five Pan-African competitions, lifting the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup once and Cup Winners Cup, CAF Cup and Super Cup twice each. But after winning the second-tier Confederation Cup - modelled on the UEFA Europa League - in 2006 and finishing runners-up in 2008 they suffered a stunning second round loss to ASFAN of Niger last year.
Ghana supplied both finalists in the first Confederation Cup seven years ago with Hearts of Oak emerging victorious after a penalty shoot-out against decades-old rivals Asante Kotoko. But the west African country has not come close to repeating that feat and continuous failures in the Champions League as well saw Ghana downgraded from being allowed two entrants per competition to one in each.
While Etoile were among 12 clubs to receive a first round bye, AshantiGold won 1-0 away and at home against modest Ivorian opponents Sewe San Pedro with Alhaji Sani scoring in Abidjan and Mohamed Aminu in Obuasi.
Former continental champs
JS Kabylie of Algeria and Ismailia of Egypt are other ex-Champions League winners in action and home advantage against modest opposition offers them a chance to establish convincing leads.
While Mauritanians Tevragh Zeina exceeded expectations by ousting AS Real of Mali, they will find 2010 Champions League semi-finalists Kabylie much tougher opponents.
Ismailia host Sofapaka, the Kenyan club they defeated 2-0 on aggregate in the Champions League last year, and a similar outcome is likely although injuries rule out Egyptian defenders Shady Mohamed and Ibrahim Yehia.
FUS Rabat of Morocco won away against highly favoured CS Sfaxien of Tunisia in the last final to become the second shock winners in a row of the competition after Stade Malien of Mali. The north Africans start their title defence at home to Toure Kounda, a side promoted to the Senegalese first division this year who edged Ports Authority of Sierra Leone in the opening round.