Nigerian clubs target cup semis
Kaduna United and Sunshine Stars of Nigeria are among five clubs chasing three CAF Confederation Cup semi-finals places this weekend.
Moghreb Fes of Morocco, Club Africain of Tunisia and Daring Club Motema Pembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo complete the list of hopefuls wanting to join InterClube of Angola in the penultimate phase.
Reaching the semi-finals guarantees USD $264,000 in the second-tier African club competition that replaced the African Cup Winners and the CAF Cup in 2004 and is loosely modelled on the UEFA Europa League.
A Kaduna side smarting from a 4-1 drubbing at InterClube last weekend must triumph at their northern Nigeria fortress against former African champions Club Africain of Tunisia to finish Group A runners-up on the head-to-head rule.
Any other outcome and Club Africain will advance, either as pool winners or runners-up depending how InterClube fare away to surprise basement dwellers ASEC Mimosas of the Côte d'Ivoire.
Young and skilful, an ASEC team coached by Frenchman Sebastien Desabre began poorly with a home draw against Club Africain and were let down by poor away form with defeats in Luanda, Kaduna and Tunis.
Leading Kaduna scorer Jude Aneke will shoulder a large responsibility for a team coached by physically imposing Belgian Maurice Cooreman, having struck four times in the competition this season.
Bright prospects for Sunshine
The head-to-head rule will also ensure Sunshine Stars from south-west Nigeria of a place among the semi-finalists provided they overcome Algerians JS Kabylie, shock occupants of last place with no points and only one goal to show from five outings.
National league pacesetters Sunshine can be justifiably confident having won the first fixture between the clubs 2-1 in Algiers thanks to goals from Emmanuel Sunday and Sakibu Atanda.
Kabylie appeared the team to beat when Group B kicked off two months ago as they have won six African titles - including the CAF Champions League twice - and boast a squad packed with experienced international campaigners.
Leaders Moghreb from historic city Fes are unbeaten in the mini-league phase, hold a three-point advantage over Sunshine and Motema Pembe, and a draw at home to the Congolese will seal top place and semi-finals showdown with the Group A runners-up.
The odds are stacked against the Motema Pembe, who boast the leading competition scorer in six-goal Salakiaku Matondo, as they must triumph by at least two goals to be sure of staying in contention for a trophy won by Moroccans FUS Rabat last year.