After this week, the CAF Champions League group stage will be set with two clubs each from Congo DR, Egypt and Algeria trying to infiltrate the final eight.
Egypt's two representatives, Al Ahly and Zamalek, have won the competition 13 times previously, but they have failed to reach the group phase in the last two years. Both are, however, well positioned to put those disappointments behind them.
Al Ahly just need a scoreless draw at home to advance after drawing their first leg 1-1 in Tanzania against Young Africans. Their coach Martin Jol, told reporters that he is determined to fully rebuild the team and “create a new golden generation” at the club. The Dutchman believes he has two players who could eventually become icons for the club: Egyptian wonderkid Ramadan Sobhi and Gabonese striker Malick Evouna. "Sobhi is an excellent player. He played well with Egypt against Nigeria in the Nations Cup qualifiers. Evouna is a good striker. He is very fast, but he has to work hard during training to regain his scoring form."
Al Ahly's cross-town rivals Zamalek are away in Algeria, defending a 2-0 first-leg lead against rookies MO Bejaia. Like Al Ahly, Zamalek have a new coach in Alex McLeish, but the former Scotland manager is under tremendous pressure to win silverware in Africa after his team fell behind the pace of their Cairo rivals in the league. There has been some talk that Egypt's all-time leading scorer Hossam Hassan is being lined up for a third stint with the White Knights, but the club says McLeish will see out his contract until the end of the season at least.
Like Zamalek, TP Mazembe have won the competition five times, but they will have to up their game if they want to stay in the hunt for a sixth title. The defending champions slumped to a 2-0 defeat in the first leg at Wydad Casablanca, who continues to impress under former Real Madrid coach John Toshack. Last season, Toshack brought a first domestic title in several years to Wydad, and he is now looking toward taking that form into the continental competition.
Rising star in goal
Côte d'Ivoire's ASEC Mimosas are trying to reach the group stage for the first time since 2008, and a big part of their run of success has been goalkeeper Herve Kouakou Koffi, who will only be turning 20 later this year. Born in Burkina Faso, Koffi rose meteorically through the Burkinabe Premier League and was snatched up by Mimosas in November. He was thrown in the deep end in ASEC's fifth league game of the season and since then, has not looked back, conceding just one goal in his first seven matches.
His performance in the Champions League has been similarly outstanding and he is yet to concede a goal in the showpiece event of African club football – having played five matches. The young goalkeeper and his team-mates are away to Libyan club Al Ahli defending a 2-0 lead from the first leg.
ZESCO United are another team that are looking likely for a place in the last eight after winning the first leg 3-1 in Mali. The Zambians were the only club that managed a victory on the road in the first leg and anything but them advancing at the expense of Stade Malien will be a major surprise. The biggest margin of victory in the first leg belonged to two-time African champions Enyimba, who beat Etoile Du Sahel 3-0 with Mfon Udoh grabbing all three goals – taking his tally for the tournament to seven.
South African clubs have a history of under-performing in the Champions League and the PSL runners-up Mamelodi Sundowns need to overturn a 1-0 deficit from their first leg trip to Congo DR's Vita Club. Former Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane, who is now in charge of the Brazilians, is confident that his team can turn things around at home. “We are aiming to win all the competitions that we play in. We have the players to do so, but we must be at our best against Vita as they are a good club.”
The final match of the second legs, which are all being played midweek, sees last-year's semi-finalist Al Merreikh travelling to Algeria to take on the 2014 winners ES Setif. With the first leg having ended in a 2-2 draw, the advantage lies with the Algerian club, who need only a low scoring draw to advance.