Top Group A teams go head-to-head
After securing away wins on the first matchday of the CAF Champions League group stage, Wydad Casablanca, Zamalek and Zesco United are eager to build on their success in the race to finish in the top two and qualify for the semi-finals. The eventual winner of October's final qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan at the end of the year.
Unfortunate not to also be on three points are Mamelodi Sundowns, who won 2-0 at ES Setif, but the result was annulled after the Algerian club were disqualified from the competition following crowd disturbances. Having had their result scrapped, the South African champions begin their campaign anew at home against Nigerian club Enyimba, who lost their opener 1-0 at home to Zamalek.
Sundowns coach Pito Mosimane has attempted to take pressure off his players, as they already know they will be involved in the competition again next year after winning the South African Premiership: "We have Champions League next year so this year is to experiment and have fun. We have nothing to lose this year, but everything to gain next year, maybe. We are just having fun and you could see in the first match, less stress, less pressure.”
Mosimane is confident that international midfielder Hlompho Kekana will be fit for the match. Although the Bafana Bafana midfielder played against Setif, he was not fully fit with a groin problem. “Tactically he was important for us. Hopefully he will be back against Enyimba. We are not worried about our opponents, but will give everything all the same. I will not read anything into Enyimba’s loss to Zamalek on a very bad pitch.”
For the two-time African champion visitors, on the other hand, a second defeat would see them with a mountain to climb to stay in contention. Their job will not have been made easier by the dismissal of coach Paul Aibogun after the defeat against Zamalek, who are off with their scheduled match against Setif called off.
New Enyimba coach Samson Unuanel told local media that nothing was lost: “My target is to win many laurels with them‚ starting with the Nigeria Premier League and the Champions League‚ where I believe we still stand a good chance to reach the next stage despite losing.”
Mfon Udoh, who is the competition's top scorer with seven goals, is aware that it will be a tough match. “We hope to pick up the pieces in our next game against Sundowns," Udoh said. "We hope to get a point or even win in South Africa.
"It’s a race and we are not out of this race yet. We got everything right , we played a good game, we were just unlucky not to put the ball in the net. The priority is to ensure we get the vital points, any other thing is secondary.”
Al Ahly to bounce back In Group A, the competition's record champions Al Ahly are needing to bounce back from a defeat in Zambia against Zesco United. The Red Devils, who have eight continental titles to their name, have been buoyed ahead of their clash against ASEC Mimosas with the news that security officials in Egypt will allow 15,000 fans to attend the game in Alexandria. “This match will be another step forward towards the full return of spectators to Egyptian stadiums," executive-manger Sherin Shams was quoted as saying on the club's website.
But if the match in Cairo is all about not losing ground, the game in Casablanca between Wydad and Zambian club Zesco United is all about building a lead. A victory for John Toshack's Wydad side, who surprisingly secured their first-ever away victory in the competition after failing to win in 24 previous games, would see the 1992 champions and 2011 finalists stake an early claim to a place in the round of the last four.
Ahead of the game in Morocco, Zesco coach George Lwandamina played down the accolades the team received after beating the Egyptian giants. “There is no reason to get very excited," Lwandamina said. "If anything this is when we have to be more serious in our work.
"Beating a big team like Al Ahly has sent signals to other teams, but can we sustain that performance? I have to get down to work so that we can reproduce that result in future games."
The Zambian team arrived in north Africa on the back off a 2-0 victory in the Zambian league against Nkana Red Devils. Playmaker Cletus Chama, who was a two-goal hero for his side against Al Ahly, scored again before being red carded for elbowing an opponent late in the game.