CAF Champions League

Esperance take on Etoile as fourth day of mini-leage stage rolls on

Day 4 of CAF Champions League group stage rolls on. Photo | CAF Online
Day 4 of CAF Champions League group stage rolls on. Photo | CAF Online


Pitso Mosimane has been handed a fresh two-year extension to his contract as Al Ahly head coach, and this will be a massive boost to his preparation as he flies his Ahly charges down South into familiar hunting grounds.

Ahly will be taking on Mosimane’s former employers Mamelodi Sundowns as the fourth match day of the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League group stage rolls on this weekend.

Sundowns beat Ahly when they met two weeks ago in what was The Brazilians first ever victory over the Red Devils in Cairo. The reigning champions will come in to Pretoria seeking to make amends for the loss and improve their hopes of making the quarter finals.

Ahly have started their Champions League title defence in topsy-turvy form, losing one, drawing one and winning one of their opening three matches. They beat Al Merrikh 3-2 in their rescheduled fixture last weekend, but it had to come off a nervy ending after they lost a 2-0 lead.

But, Mosimane is not worried that his title defense is on the balance. With four points so far, Ahly can move top of the pile with victory against Sundowns.

But the runaway South African Premier League leaders are not ready to let their lead off their sights and will look to keep their unbeaten run in this season’s Champions League.

They warmed up for this fixture with a comfortable 6-0 victory over Mathaithai in the Nedbank Cup back home and come in with confidence to grab maximum points.

This will be the 10th meeting between the two sides and the fifth in South Africa. Sundowns have never lost to Ahly at home. The four other previous meetings have seen one win and three draws. Their last meeting in May 2021 ended in a 1-1 draw in what was Pitso’s first return to the club.

Elsewhere in other Group A fixtures, Al Hilal will host Merrikh at their home turf in Omdurman in the Sudanese derby that is also expected to spike fireworks. Hilal have only one point from their home draw against Ahly and to keep their quarter final hopes alive, have to beat Merrikh.

Over the last 36 meetings between these two sides, results have been evently poised with each winning 11 times while the remaining 14 matches ended in draws.

Their last meeting was in Cairo two weeks ago, where Merrikh are hosting their home matches, with the latter winning 2-1. Hilal are coming all out for revenge.

Group B

Raja Club Athletic is the only side to retain a 100pc record so far in the group phases, three consecutive 1-0 victories keeping them top of the pile with a maximum nine points.

They will travel away to Horoya AC, a side they beat when they met in Casablanca two weeks ago. A victory for the Green Eagles will be a massive result and will certainly guarantee them a place in the quarter finals.

Horoya are winless in the group and have lost all their three matches, including their only tie at home against ES Setif. Another loss would complicate their chances of making the last eight.

Meanwhile in the other fixture, South African debutants AmaZulu will be looking to continue their good run. They have won back to back matches at home against Horoya and ES Setif to stand at six points.

They will be traveling away to the Algerian side Setif’s home turf, coach Benni McCarthy keen on raking a point in their least to keep their second spot intact.

Setif have lost back to back matches, against AmaZulu and at home against Raja. With just three points from their opening day 1-0 win over Horoya, they are out to rake in a win to boost their hopes of qualifying to the quarters.

Group C

One of the most open groups in the TotalEnergies Champions League will look to get a clearer picture of the front runners when match day four rolls on this weekend.

Tunisian giants Esperance and Algeria’s CR Belouizdad are perched at the top with five points each after similar results of a win and two draws.

Esperance will take on Etoile du Sahel in Rades, in the second instalment of the Tunisian side after the two played out a goalless draw last time out.

Etoile have three points from three draws and are still in the running for a place in the last eight, despite not picking a win yet. A victory against Esperance will hoist them top.

Meanwhile, Belouizdad will be at home seeking to complete a home and away swoop of Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy. The Algerians won the last encounter 2-1 two weeks ago. Jwaneng have just one point and sit bottom of the pile.

Group D

The Angolan derby pitting Petro de Luanda and G.D. Sagrada Esperança will be the highlight of Group D fixtures this weekend.

Petro wheeled off with the bragging rights when the two sides met two weeks ago, winning 2-1 to sail to the top of the group with seven points.

Esperança are rooted bottom of the table with just a point off their draw at home against Zamalek and victory against their arch nemesis will be hugely crucial to keep their hopes of making the quarters.

Meanwhile, under pressure Zamalek, under a new coach, will be facing Wydad Club Athletic in Cairo, hoping for their first victory of the group stages.

They lost 3-1 to Wydad when they last met in Casablanca and the result proved to be the last blow to French tactician Patrice Carteron who was relieved off his duties after the game. Their only points have come off consecutive draws against Esperança and Petro.

Wydad meanwhile have two wins and are keen to grab a third to sail them top of the group if Petro falter at the hands of hands of their Angolan counterparts.