African Football

#CAFCL The final showdown for groups stage places

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The battle for the CAF Champions League groups stage slots enters final day on 17th and 18th March, 2018 across Africa.

Sixteen return matches of the round of 32 will be on the cards with aggregate winners making the lucrative phase of the Africa’s top interclub championships.

But to some clubs, who did the job in the first leg, the weekend adventure could just be a stroll in the park.

Defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco for example travel to Cote d’Ivoire to face Williamsville Athletic Club on Saturday the 17th March with qualification almost assured.

The 19 times Moroccan champions thumped the debutants from Abdijan 7-2 in the first leg in Casablanca and nothing is expected to stop them from finishing the job in the Cote d’Ivoire’s capital.

Same goes to Egypt’s Al Ahly, who crushed CF Mounana of Gabon 4-0 in Cairo, and are heavily tipped to enjoy an easy sailing in Libreville going by their bullish domestic form currently.

The record eight times Champions League winners were earlier this week confirmed domestic league winners for a fourth straight time with six matches to spare.

TP Mazembe of DR Congo on the other hand chartered a flight to Mozambique Wednesday for their rematch against hosts UD do Songo Sunday.

The Ravens, who are five times African Champions comfortably, won the first encounter in Lubumbashi 4-0 and are among the teams fancied to cruise through without breaking a sweat.

Etoile du Sportive du Sahel of Tunisia hit Nigeria’s Plateau United 4-2 at home and are also tipped to make the groups stage albeit with a little fight in the return match Sunday.

A number of battles nonetheless are still largely open ended and will be fought till the final whistle.

Wounded Zesco United of Zambia, who surprisingly went down 1-0 to Cote d’Ivoire’s ASEC Mimosas in Ndola, Zambia will be hoping to overturn the results and qualify into the groups stage for the third straight time.

It will however be a tough outing for “Team ya Ziko” who have struggled on the road and are floundering at home.

The team lost 4-2 to rivals Nkana FC in the Zambian Super Cup last weekend.

The uncertain future of head coach Tenant Chembo is not making their case either and is believed to be contributing to their latest poor results.

Botswana’s Township Rollers are angling for a first ever appearance in the round of 16 but Yanga SC of Tanzania are standing on their path.

The “Popa Popa” did themselves a huge favor by winning the first leg 2-1 in Dar Es Salaam but the visitors are not throwing in the towel just yet.

Yanga beat Stand United 3-1 in a mid-week Tanzanian Premier League tie to move joint top of the log on points with Simba SC, a morale boosting performance they will need to replicate in Gaborone.

But Rollers proved that they can be ruthless in front of their home fans when they hammered El Merrikh of Sudan 3-0 in the preliminary round and Yanga will have to be at the utmost best to turn the tables.

AS Togo Port shocked Al Hilal 2-0 in Lome in the first leg, but to reach the groups stage for the first time, they will have to hold their nerves and face the dreaded Hilal fans in Omdurman, Sudan in the return match Sunday.

KCCA of Uganda hosts Ethiopia’s St. George in another tie that can go either way.

The Horsemen dipped their hands in the cookie jar last year when they made the groups stage for the first time and are determined to continue to enjoying the sweetness of the top level football.

The barren draw in Addis last week gives them a fighting chance in Kampala on Saturday with any scoring draw guaranteeing them a smooth sailing.

Gor Mahia of Kenya travel to Tunis, Tunisia to face two times champions Esperance du Tunis in a David versus Goliath battle.

If Gor’s stellar performance in the first stanza in Machakos, Kenya where they stood up to the blood and gold to record a barren draw, when everybody expected them to be obliterated, is anything go by then they can fancy a fighting chance in the return match Sunday.

K’Ogalo’s gaffer Dylan Kerr is particularly clear that the bad memory of 2014 when Gor when were smacked 8-2 on aggregate by Esperance in the same competition is now in the past and they are focusing on the present.

A scoring draw or any win will see the Kenyan giants return to the table of men for the first time since 1993 when they reached the quarterfinals of the CAF Winners’ Cup.

The sixteen losers will have a soft landing in the CAF Confederations Cup playoffs round with a chance for a slot in the second tier interclub competition’s groups’ phase.

The draw for the Champions League groups’ stage and the Confederations playoffs round will take place on 21st March in Cairo, Egypt.

The Fixtures;

Saturday 17th

Uniao Desportiva do Songo vs TP Mazembe

Mbabane Swallows vs Zanaco FC

CF Mounana vs Al Ahly SC

Township Rollers vs Yanga SC

Williamsville Athletic Club vs Wydad Casablanca

KCCA vs St. George FC

Bidvest Wits vs Club Desportivo 1 de Agosto

Generation Foot vs Horoya AC

Mouloudia Clu d’Alger vs MFM FC

Sunday 18th

Plateau United vs Etoile Sportive du Sahel

AS Vita Club vs Difaa Hassani El Jadida

ASEC Mimosas vs Zesco United

Esperance du Tunis vs Gor Mahia

Mamelodi Sundowns vs Rayon Sports

E.S Setifienne vs Aduana Stars

Al Hilal Omdurman vs AS Togo Port Lome

About Bonface Osano

African Football Writer contributing @Soka25east | Commentator; appeared on @MySoccerAfrica, @KweseSports, @ntvkenya, others | Keen follower of African Football. E-mail: bonfaceosano@gmail.com

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