The first leg matches of quarter-finals of the 55th edition of the CAF Champions League will be played this weekend. There are four mouth watering encounters in South Africa, Tanzania, Guinea Conakry and Algeria.
In South Africa, record eight times African champions Al-Ahly travel to face 2016 champions Mamelodi Sundowns of Pretoria.
Al Ahly have been runners-up in the last two editions and will try to do everything to go all the way this season.
They will be coming up against a Sundowns team that are fast establishing themselves as a force to reckon with in African continental club football. Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane know exactly the might and histor y of their opponents this weekend.
“It’s(Al Ahly) a big club, a very big club. It’s bigger than Wydad if you thought Wydad is big. It’s bigger than Esperance. It’s huge, team of the century.” The Sundowns coach told kingfut.
“They are the biggest team on the continent, just look at the badge, look at the stars. Then you realize we are small boys, we have not done anything.
They make transfers of $6 million; can you believe that in Africa? We sell players for less than that to Europe. They got Rahmadan Sohbi from the Engilsh Premier League (Huddersfield), they brought him back. I mean how much do they need to pay?”
Sundowns are a solid all round team and can count on the huge experience of their coach Pitso Mosimane and the safe hands of their Ugandan international goalkeeper Denis Onyango. They will however be without their Liberian international striker Anthony Laffor who is injured, but Mosimane can count on the competition’s top scorer Themba Zwane.
In Tanzania, 19 times Tanzanian Champions and 1993 CAF Cup finalists Simba FC will play host to five times champions TP Mazembe. The Congolese are happy to recover their evergreen forward Tresor Mabi Mputu who was a doubt due to malaria, but he has been declared fit.
Simba have really been difficult to beat at home, bringing even the mighty Al Ahly and AS Vita Club on their knees.
The Tanzanians have won all their champions league games this season at the Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium in Dar Es Salaam.
Speaking to the TP Mazembe website, Tresor Mputu made it clear that they are aware of the difficulties but they are ready for the battle.
“We are in Dar es Salaam to play while knowing that it will be a difficult meeting.” Mputu said on their website.
“All the teams have fallen in front of Simba FC on this field, but we are competitors and know what to do. There are quality players in the team, experienced and young players who have taken in the taste of competition.”
Former Bamboutous of Mbouda winger Moussa Abagana and his teammates will however be without one of their key strikers, Ben Malango who failed to recover from an injury.
Mazembe will however have little to worry about going forward as Coach Pamphile Mihayo can still turn to Jackson Muleka and Kevin Mudenko to partner Mabi Mputu. There is also the ever reliable Zambian creative midfielder Rainford Kalaba to provide them with the through balls.
Simba’s Belgian coach Patrick Aussem has called on the public to play its twelfth man role to the fullest because that will be an important detail. Wekunda Wa Msimbani will want to build on the momentum of the Taifa Stars for their Afcon 2019 qualification for the first time in 39 years and make Simba write their names in East African football folklore.
In Conakry, Horoya will try to overcome the quarterfinals huddle for the first time when they entertain two time winners Wydad of Casablanca. Horoya have been successful at the domestic front but have ended at the level of the quarterfinals so far despite the resources and ambitions of their President.
Horoya’s opponents are no pushovers, they won the competition in 1992 and 2017.
Horoya will depend on their Senegalese international goalkeeper Khardime Ndiaye and his wealth of experience, given that he was the goalkeeper of the Teranga Lions in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
They will however be without defensive midfielder Djibo Wonkoye suspended and Ghanaian defender Godfred Asante.
Horoya’s former Cotonsport of Garoua coach Didier Gomes knows the importance of this home fixture given how hostile it is to travel to North Africa.
For Wydad, their Tunisian coach Faouzi Benzarti will try to find a solution to his strikers lack of goals this far in the competition. Their top scorer is defender Mohammed Nahiri with three goals. Cameroon’s 30 years old midfielder Jean Dipita Ebele though a fringe player will not hesitate to do anything to help his team to victory.
The only Guinean team to have won the trophy before is Hafia FC in 1972 when they beat Simba of Uganda in finals, they lost the finals in 1978 to Cameroon’s Canon of Yaoundé.
Just like Horoya, a qualification to the semifinals for CS Constantine will be their first in the competition. To do that they will have to eliminate the defending champions Esperance of Tunis.
CS Constantine have the honors to host the Tunisians at the Stade Mohammed Hamlaoui this weekend.
Constantine surprised all and sundry when they qualified for the group stage of the competition, and now they are dreaming to emulate JS Kabylie who are the only Algerian club to have won the competition (1981 and 1990).
Their Cameroon forward Arouna Dang Bissene and his teammates know that Esperance are coming with an extra motivation haven just lost the African Super Cup to Raja of Casablanca.
With former Indomitable Lions of Cameroon coach Who also led Cotonsport of Garoua to the finals against Al Ahly in 2008, Denis Lavagne at the helm of the technical team, Constantine know they are in good hands to push on for an unexpected place in the last four with a surprise or two against their illustrious visitors who have won the competition three times.
The return leg games will be played on April 13, 2019, to determine which four teams will be present in the last four in this season’s competition.