Several of Africa’s fancied teams are expected to clear the first hurdle in the CAF Champions League 2010 at the weekend, but two of the continent’s former champions are in perilous danger of elimination.

A total of 24 first round, second legs are poised to unfold with the winners advancing to next month’s second round. The early stages of the competition are played on a knockout basis until the teams are whittled down to the last eight, when a final group phase begins.

Upsets loom for big guns
Asante Kotoko are the only club flying the flag for Ghana this year, but they face the distinct possibility of an early exit against ASC Linguere of Senegal. A 2-0 defeat in Dakar means Kotoko, who were African champions in 1970 and 1983 and have been runners-up five times, have a difficult hurdle to overcome. Their precarious situation will be exacerbated by the suspension of key striker Baffour Gyan, who was sent off in the first leg.

“I urge our fans not to despair, but to have hope and confidence in us that we are capable of winning massively and qualifying for the next stage of the competition” said Kotoko’s goalkeeper Isaac Amoako ahead of the second leg in Kumasi.

I urge our fans not to despair, but to have hope and confidence in us that we are capable of winning massively and qualifying for the next stage of the competition.

Asante Kotoko goalkeeper Isaac Amoako, whose side lost 2-0 away to ASC Linguere in their first leg

Club Africain, who won the continent’s top club title in 1990, are 2-1 behind against tricky Niger side Sahel SC, but thanking their stars after fortuitously claiming an away goal in the final minute of the first leg in Niamey earlier this month. It leaves them somewhat guarded for Sunday’s return in Tunis.

South Africa’s Orlando Pirates were lucky not lose away at Gaborone United of Botswana, who still hold out hopes of beating their more illustrious neighbours. “We will try and work out a plan and exploit their weaknesses,” insisted GU’s coach Manfred Chabinga ahead to the trip to the new FIFA World Cup™ stadium in Port Elizabeth, where the Johannesburg-based Pirates have shifted the game.

Smooth waters
Away wins in the first leg for several of the top contenders means there is a chance for coaches to experiment with inexperienced players. This is an approach likely to be employed by Al Ittihad of Libya, Burkina Faso’s ASFA Yennenga, Mozambique’s Ferroviario Maputo, JS Kabylie of Algeria, Morocco’s Raja Casablanca and newly-crowned South African champions SuperSport United, all of whom won their first legs away from home against relatively minor opposition.

Ferroviario from Mozambique scored five away goals against AC Mitsamiouli, who are again representing the Comoros Islands, African football’s newest member. It was the biggest score of the first round.

Six sides were handed byes in the first round based on historical results, including the defending champions TP Mazembe Congo DR and the competition’s most decorated side, Al Ahly of Egypt. Byes were also given to Heartland of Nigeria, Al Hilal from Sudan, Zimbabwe’s Dynamos and Côte d'Ivoire's champions ASEC Abidjan.

(first leg results in parenthesis)
In Tunis: Esperance (Tunisia) v East End Lions (Sierra Leone) (2-2)
In El Jadida: DH Jadida (Morocco) v OS Balantas Mansoa (Guinea Bissau) (0-0)
In Pretoria: SuperSport United (South Africa) v Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland) (3-1)
In Yaounde: Tiko United (Cameroon) v Vital’O (Burundi) (2-2)
In Benghazi: Al Ahli Benghazi (Libya) v Djoliba (Mali) (0-1)
In Casablanca: Raja Casablanca (Morocco) v Fello Star Labe (Guinea) (3-1)
In Harare: Gunners (Zimbabwe) v Mafunzo (Zanzibar) (2-1)
In Ismaili: Ismaili (Egypt) v Sofapaka (Kenya) (0-0)
In Khartoum: Al Merreikh (Sudan) v St Georges (Ethiopia) (1-1)
In Lubumbashi: St Eloi Lupopo (DR Congo) v Young Africans (Tanzania) (3-2)
In Lusaka: Zanaco (Zambia) v Uganda Revenue Authority (Uganda) (0-1)
In Maputo: Ferroviario Maputo (Mozambique) v AC Mitsamiouli (Comoros) (5-3)
In Port Elizabeth: Orlando Pirates (South Africa) v Gaborone United (Botswana) (0-0)
In Setif: Entente Setif (Algeria) v Diables Noirs (Congo) (2-3)
In Tizi Ouzou: JS Kabylie (Algeria) v Armed Forces (Gambia) (2-1)
In Tripoli: Al Ittihad (Libya) v Tempete Mocaf (Central African Republic) (2-1)
In Tunis: Club Africain (Tunisia) v Sahel SC (Niger) (1-2)
In Kumasi: Asante Kotoko (Ghana) v ASC Linguere (Senegal) (0-2)
In Ouagadougou: ASFA Yennenga (Burkina Faso) v Stade Mandji (Gabon) (2-0)
In Antananarivo: Ajesaia (Madagascar) v Tamponnaise (Reunion) (1-2)
In Curepipe: Curepipe Starlight (Mauritius) v La Passe (Seychelles) (0-1)
In Libolo: Recreativo Libolo (Angola) v APR FC (Rwanda) (2-2)
In Luanda: Petro Atletico (Angola) v Ela Nguema (Equatorial Guinea) (3-2)
In Yenagoa: Bayelsa United (Nigeria) v Gazelle (Chad) (0-1)