Friday Apr 15, 2022. 13:00
Four potential thrillers are on offer in the CAF Champions League this weekend, as the quarterfinal, first-leg matches are played across the African continent on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 April.
The action gets underway at Stade du 5 Juillet in Algiers late on Friday night, as ES Setif welcomes Esperance de Tunis.
Setif are arguably the weakest team remaining in the competition, as their haul of nine points from Group B was the lowest of the eight quarterfinalists, but they are determined to shrug off their indifferent recent form (four straight defeats before a midweek win over Mc Alger in their domestic Ligue 1) to prove they are worthy of a place at the top table of African football.
“We will now have to think about our next matches, starting with that of the Champions League,” said coach Redha Bendris. “A meeting that we will try to prepare well with the objective of getting a good result and confirming our merit for qualifying for the quarterfinals of this competition.”
Early Saturday evening sees the only sub-Saharan teams go to battle in the Angolan capital city, as Petro de Luanda welcome Mamelodi Sundowns to Estadio 11 de Novembro.
Petro were the surprise package of the group stage, suffering just one defeat in a group which also featured Wydad Casablanca, Zamalek and their compatriots Sagrada Esperanca, but in ‘Downs they face a tough and experienced team which came through their group stage campaign unbeaten – including home and away wins over Al Ahly.
Nonetheless, despite their impressive recent form (Sundowns are on a run of seven straight wins across all competitions, scoring 29 goals in the process), co-coach Rulani Mokwena is wary of the threat posed by their opponents.
“Petro are a very good side with good Champions League experience, they’ve been here for three seasons in a row,” Mokwena noted. “It’s their first time in the quarterfinals but what we’ve seen in the group is that they are a very capable team.”
Late Saturday night then sees reigning African kings Al Ahly welcome Raja Casablanca to Cairo, while Wydad Casablanca will tackle hosts CR Belouizdad in another clash at Stade du 5 Juillet.
Ahly manager Pitso Mosimane will want to see his side bounce back from a domestic league defeat at the hands of Al Masry last weekend: “The next match is an opportunity for players to regain confidence and prove themselves. It’s good that we will play in the Cairo International Stadium, that way we can play the Al Ahly style,” said the South African tactician.
As for Wydad and their tie with CRB, coach Walid Regragui is urging his team to “keep our feet on the ground to beat this team and qualify for the semifinals”.
He added, “It’s a duel that will be difficult, but the advantage we have is that the return match will be played in Casablanca.”
The return-leg matches will be played on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 April.
CAF Champions League weekend fixtures
Quarterfinal, first-leg matches. All times CAT.
Friday 15 April
23:00: ES Setif v Esperance de Tunis
Saturday 16 April
18:00: Petro de Luanda v Mamelodi Sundowns
22:00: Al Ahly v Raja Casablanca
23:00: CR Belouizdad v Wydad Casablanca