Al-Ahly top list of candidates
Egyptian giants Al Ahly need only a draw in a Cairo showdown with bitter domestic rivals Zamalek on Sunday to advance from Group A to the CAF African Champions League semi-finals, and ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast can join them provided they overcome Dynamos of Zimbabwe in Abidjan a day earier.
Leaders Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon visit Tout Puissant Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and second-placed Enyimba of Nigeria host Al-Hilal of Sudan in Group B on Sunday knowing maximum points will take them through.
Decades-long adversaries Ahly and Zamalek share the record for African Champions League titles with five each, but the similarity ends there as the former have been dominant at national and international level for five years.
When the clubs clashed last June in the opening round, Ahly triumphed 2-1 via goals from Angola striker Flavio Amado and Egypt captain and midfielder Ahmed Hassan. A week later it was 2-0 to Ahly in the pre-season Egypt Super Cup, with veteran Hassan, a mid-year signing from Belgian club Anderlecht, again on target.
Zamalek coach Reiner Hollmann is unperturbed by these reverses, telling the club website: "Our chances to advance to the semi-finals are equal to those of our group competitors." But the grim reality facing the German is that if Ahly take even one point from a match likely to draw a 70,000 sell-out crowd and resurgent ASEC triumph, it will be all over for Zamalek.
After losing to Dynamos and drawing with Ahly, ASEC took four points off Zamalek from a draw in Cairo and win in Abidjan to move a point ahead of the Egyptian "White Knights' and two in front of the Zimbabwean 'Glamour Boys'.
Enyimba welcome back leading 2008 African Champions League scorer Stephen Worgu from suspension as they try to recover from a 3-0 mauling at Mazembe two weeks ago that saw them slip to second place a point behind Cotonsport.
While Enyimba also lost at Hilal, ironically to a late goal from Nigerian Ifeanyi Onigbo, they are formidable in their Aba fortress with five qualifying and group matches yielding 17 goals.
Teenager Worgu, who has hit the target 12 times in African combat this year, offers no secret for his success: "I just want to win and win well and that is all I have in mind when I play," he told a Nigerian magazine.
Hilal, favoured to reach the semi-finals after reaching that stage last year, surrendered the advantage of a bright mini-league start by taking a solitary point from a possible six against Cotonsport. The club from the north west Cameroon town of Garoua have been the revelation of the pool phase despite the resignation of French coach Denis Lavagne after a late goal brought a home win over Mazembe three months ago.
However, should a Mazembe team inspired by captain and striker Mputu Mabi match the form that overwhelmed Enyimba, Cotonsport may have to try for a semi-finals place again next weekend when the final fixtures are staged.