CAF Champions League preview: Favourites out to avoid early exits
Only a few of the 2017 CAF Champions League favorites impressed in the first leg of the first round matches, leaving them with all to do ahead of the 16-team group stage.
Egypt and Tunisia are among the few countries expected to have their two representatives reach the group stage; and it looks like things are going to be like so. Etoile Sahel and Esperance Tunis both scored three goals at home allowing them to maintain focus on the domestic title race. Their trips to AS Tanda and Horoya respectively are surely formalities.
As for Egypt, only Zamalek can rest easy even though Al Ahly also recorded a home win. The slender advantage Ahly has against South African side, Bidvest Wits has not deterred their coach’s confidence on advancing. CAF Champions League winning coach, El-Badry said “they have what it takes to win the second leg.” Al Ahly has not won any of their last eight visits to South Africa, since the turn of the Century.
Last two African champions in trouble
The last two winners of the CAF Champions League are also in less than ideal situations, heading into second leg matches away from home. Last year’s winners, Mamelodi Sundowns started brightly against KCCA, of Uganda, but found themselves holding onto a 2-1 lead at the end of the match. Pitso Mosimane’s charges now head to the newly installed artificial turf at Lugogo stadium and Pitso is ready for the challenge.
“We played AS Vita and ES Setif on artificial pitches so why would we be concerned about the pitch now? We don’t like it, but at least the ball rolls, and that is the positive we take to the pitch.”
TP Mazembe, the 2015 winners, was not even lucky to record a home win. Instead they drew 1-1 against CAPS United, from Zimbabwe. New Mazembe coach, Thierry Froger is under pressure to qualify the second most successful club in Africa to the group stage. He said, “When the team has a bad result, it’s everyone’s responsibility. Obviously, I have my share of the responsibility. We have no choice in Harare, we have to win.”
USM Alger, Al Hilal and Wydad Casablanca lead the cast of teams eyeing to break the stranglehold on the CAF title by the aforementioned clubs. The trio is expected to come away from their trips to Burkina Faso, Mauritius and Gabon, respectively, smiling. Also expected to advance is Vita Club. The 2014 runners-up drew 1-1 away to Gambia Ports Authority in the first leg.
Rivers United and Zanaco are favorites to progress from their ties. They will be looking to give Nigeria and Zambia another go at the CAF Champions League trophy, after Enyimba and ZESCO United failed to deliver in 2016. Rivers United lead Al-Merrikh by three goals to nil while Zanaco got a precious draw, from their trip to East Africa, against Young Africans.
The second leg matches will be played this weekend, 18th and 19th March, 2017. The 16 winners of these ties will advance to the group stage.
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