Group stage beckons for Africa’s heavyweights

Group stage beckons for Africa’s heavyweights
Pitso Mosimane, the head coach of Al-Ahly

by Graeme Jackson

Monday Jan 04, 2021. 17:00

The CAF Champions League will wrap up its final qualifying round this midweek, Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 January 2021, with the group stage of the competition beckoning for heavyweights across the continent.

Defending champions Al Ahly will back themselves to add their advantage over Niger’s AS SONIDEP, having won the first leg 1-0 in Niamey in December, while their arch rivals Zamalek look set to advance without kicking a ball after their opponents, Gazelle FC of Chad, did not appear for the first leg – CAF are set to finalise this issue in due course.

Other major teams looking good to advance include Mamelodi Sundowns (2-0 up ahead of hosting Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy) and TP Mazembe (2-1 up and hosting AS Bouenguidi of Gabon), while Algeria’s CR Belouizdad are all but through ahead of their trip to Kenya’s Gor Mahia thanks to a 6-0 win in Algiers two weeks ago.

Ghanaian giants Asante Kotoko head to Sudan looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Al Hilal, but Black Stars coach CK Akonnor reckons the Porcupine Warriors have little hope of advancing: “If I’m being realistic, I can say that because Kotoko lost the home game, we don’t have a chance, but there are miracles in football, and I strongly believe that once they are determined and prepared very well, they can go there and perform a miracle.”

A miracle will also be required by Nigeria’s Enyimba, who are 3-0 down ahead of hosting Sudan’s Al Merrikh. “It is really a painful one. Every mistake on our part, they got it punished and that was very good on their side,” admitted coach Fatai Osho.

Many of the remaining ties are very well balanced or intriguingly poised, especially Wydad Casablanca and Simba SC looking to overturn narrow deficits at home to Stade Malien and FC Platinum respectively.

The aggregate winners will advance into the group stage of the Champions League, while the losers will ‘drop’ into the playoff round of the Confederation Cup.

CAF Champions League fixtures, 5-6 January 2021

First round, second-leg matches. Aggregate score in parenthesis.

Tuesday 5 January

Primeiro de Agosto v Kaizer Chiefs (0-0)

Mamelodi Sundowns v Jwaneng Galaxy (2-0)

Al Ahly v AS SONIDEP (1-0)

Raja Casablanca v Teungueth FC (0-0)

Wednesday 6 January

Gor Mahia v CR Belouizdad (0-6)

Al Hilal v Asante Kotoko (1-0)

TP Mazembe v AS Bouenguidi (2-1)

Esperance de Tunis v Al Ahly Benghazi (0-0)

CS Sfaxien v MC Alger (0-2)

Simba SC v FC Platinum (0-1)

AS Vita v Young Buffaloes (2-2)

Enyimba v Al Merrikh (0-3)

Wydad Casablanca v Stade Malien (0-1)

Horoya AC v RC Abidjan (1-1)

Petro de Luanda v Nkana FC (1-1)

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