The 2018/19 Caf Champions League transitional calendar season begins on Tuesday with some prominent sides taking part in the preliminary round
2018 Caf Champions League semifinalists Primiero Agosto kick-off their bid for another fine run by hosting unheralded AS Otoho D’oyo from Congo Brazzaville.
After reaching the last four of the last Champions League season, including booting out five-time champions TP Mazembe in the quarter-finals, a considerable amount of attention is expected to be on Agosto as they look to replicate their 2018 exploits.
It will be AS Otoho’s debut in the Champions League and upsetting Agosto would definitely be one of the biggest news headlines of the round.
In Nairobi Kenyan Premier league champions Gor Mahia host Malawian side Nyasa Bullets in what is expected to be a cracker just weeks after playing Everton in London.
Elsewhere, 1991 African champions Club Africain visit Rwandan side APR.
The Tunisians last won a Caf inter-club competition in 1999 when they lifted the then Cup Winners’ Cup and will now have to deal with APR first in their quest to reclaim continental glory.
APR have taken part in the Champions League in 10 previous editions but have never reached the group stages, and appear on paper as easy opponents for Club Africain.
Meanwhile, Zesco United are in Niger to face Sonidep without new strikers Nigerian Quadri Aladeokun, who joined from Mbabane Swallows and former Kaizer Chiefs forward Lewis Macha.
Zesco coach George Lwandamina has included three new arrivals in the team, Rahim Osumanu, Mwila Phiri and Clement Mwape.
“We have to labour, we have to work for our sweet result and that is what we are going to do,” Lwandamina was quoted as saying by Lusaka Times.
“I know after off-season we have never had any high profile test matches because of the same time factor but I think we have down enough in this short period of time,” he added.
Usual Zesco faces like Kenyan striker Jesse Were, last season’s top scorer Lazarus Kambole, Fackson Kampumbu and veteran midfielder Kondwani Mtonga have made the trip.
Zesco’s compatriots Nkana will also be in action away in Mozambique, against UD Songo who participated in the group stages last season.
It promises to be a closely-contested affair between the two sides with Nkana trying to bring back the good old days of the 1980s, when they advanced into the semifinals four times, thrice reaching the quarter-finals and then losing the 1990 final.
Elsewhere, former champions Asec Mimosas will be attempting to reach the group stages for the first time in 10 years, starting with the hosting of Gabonese outfit Mangasport.
Mangasport look like lightweights as Asec are odds on favourites to prevail in this round.
Also, Guinean giants Horoya are at home to Barrack Young Controllers of Liberia.
Horoya reached the quarter-finals last season, before they were eliminated by eventual finalists Al Ahly.
In Burundi, Le Messager Ngozi host Egyptian side Ismaily who make a return to the Caf Champions League for the first time since 2010.
It is also 49 years since Ismaily were crowned African champions and they will be seeking to end their barren spell.
Elsewhere, Zimbabwean champions FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza has expressed reservations about his side playing on the artificial turf at the Centre des Loisirs de la CNaPS Vontovorona when they face CNaPS of Madagascar on Wednesday.
“It is always difficult to play on an artificial turf… Usually you can tell everybody will be pushing in the first 40 minutes or so but after that it is always difficult,” Mapeza told The Herald.
“Especially when it is hot and humid, those granules bring so much heat it is always difficult to play on an artificial turf I do not want to lie.
“The videos I have been watching (CNaPS matches) the guys have bandages on their knees which shows it is not easy playing on that turf.
“One thing I have picked up is that the ball moves quicker and we need to manage the way we pass the ball around,” he concluded.