CAF Champions League

Winner of 2018 CAF Champions League to get direct entry into 2019 group phase

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The winner of this year’s African Champions League will be given direct entry into the group phase of the next edition of the competition in a bid by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to alleviate fixture congestion.

Caf general secretary Amr Fahmy says this decision is a one-off and applies only to the 2018 Champions League because of changes to the timing of the annual continental club competition.

This year’s Champions League and African Confederation Cup are the last to be staged within a calendar year.

It ends some five decades of a traditional February start and culminating in an end-of-the-year finish.

The next editions will mark the change in dates as decided by Caf after overwhelming suggestions at last year’s Caf symposium in Rabat.

Future Champions League and Confederation Cup competitions will be staged from August through to May, following the same schedule as most of the major African leagues and also that of the European club competitions.

The switch will be made later this year with the 2018-19 edition of both competitions kicking off in November, just weeks after the previous edition is concluded and the 2018 champions have been crowned.

Caf are squeezing two preliminary rounds in before Christmas and will start the group phase of the Champions League in January.

The 2018 Champions League winner will not be able to take part in the early stages because they will be off representing Africa at the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates from December 12-22 – hence, the decision to put the African champions straight into the group phase.

The 2018-19 competitions are sandwiched into just six months, concluding in May. The Champions League final is being played a fortnight before the 2019 African Nations Cup finals in Cameroon are due to kick off.

Caf are also sticking with the new standardisation of the dates and kick-off times for the two competitions, which were introduced this year.

Champions League matches are reserved for Fridays and Saturdays only, while midweek games may only be scheduled on a Tuesday.

In contrast, Confederation Cup games can only be played on a Sunday and Wednesday to ensure there is no overlap between the two competitions.

Furthermore, they will continue with set kick-off times:

Champions League

Friday: 16h00 GMT, 19h00 GMT

Saturday: 13h00 GMT, 16h00 GMT, 19h00 GMT

Tuesday: 13h00 GMT, 16h00 GMT, 19h00 GMT

Confederation Cup

Sunday: 13h00 GMT, 16h00 GMT, 19h00 GMT

Wednesday: 13h00 GMT, 16h00 GMT, 19h00 GMT

It is a move to provide separate identities for the competitions that otherwise can fall prey to some chaotic scheduling and Fahmy said it had been well received.

Caf is also phasing out the experiment with midweek dates for club competition matches, first introduced two years ago. They will be limited in the 2018-19 edition. 2018-2019 dates

November 27-28: African Champions League, African Confederation Cup first round, first leg

December 4-5: Champions League, Confederation Cup first round, second leg

December 14-15: Champions League second round, first leg

December 16: Confederation Cup second round, first leg

December 21-22: Champions League second round, second leg

December 23: Confederation Cup second round, second leg

December 28: Champions League group phase draw; Confederation Cup third round draw

December 29: African Super Cup (2018 winners) January 11-12: Champions League group phase match day 1

January 13: Confederation Cup third round, first leg

January 18-19: Champions League group phase match day 2

January 20: Confederation Cup third round, second leg

January 21: Confederation Cup group phase draw February 1-2: Champions League group phase match day 3

February 3: Confederation Cup group phase match day 1

February 12: Champions League group phase match day 4

February 13: Confederation Cup group phase match day 2

February 24: Confederation Cup group phase match day 3

March 3: Confederation Cup group phase match day 4 March 8-9: Champions League group phase match day 5

March 10: Confederation Cup group phase match day 5

March 15-16: Champions League group phase match day 6

March 17: Confederation Cup group phase match day 6

March 23: Champions League, Confederation Cup quarter-final draw

April 5-6: Champions League quarter-final, first leg

April 7: Confederation Cup quarter-final, first leg

April 12-13: Champions League quarter-final, second leg

April 14: Confederation Cup quarter-final, second leg

April 26-27: Champions League semi-final, first leg

April 28: Confederation Cup semi-final, first leg

May 3-4: Champions League semi-final, second leg

May 5: Confederation Cup semi-final, second leg

May 19: Confederation Cup final, first leg

May 24 or 25: Champions League final, first leg

May 26: Confederation Cup final, second leg

May 31 or June 1: Champions League final, second leg

BBC

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