12 times Zambian Champions Nkana FC will host the competition’s most successful side with three tittles, CS Sfaxien at the Nkana Stadium in Kitwe.
NKana qualified for the quarterfinals as Group C runners up behind Sudanese giants Al Hilal Omdurman, while Sfaxien won Group B ahead of fellow Tunisian side Etoile Sahel.
Sfaxien have been traveling well in this years tournament with just on loss in their five away games, winning two and drawing two.
Sfaxien’s coach Ruud Krol who led them to victory in the competition in 2013 knows how important a good result will be for them to book a place in the semifinals, despite complaining about the difficulties and effects of the 24 hours journey to Zambia.
They’ll have to face the Zambians without influential midfielder Alaa Marzouki due to injury, as well as strikers Fabrice Elysée Kouadio Kouakou and Donou Hubert. Midfielder Ali Mohammed Ali Moncer and goalkeeper Sabri Ben Hsan will also be absent from Ruud Krol’s team.
Sfaxien come into this game with only one striker fit to play, Firas Chawat and he will be the man to lead the line.
Sfaxien ( The Flying Antelopes) who won the competition back to back in 2007 and 2008 had earlier on eliminated another Zambian team Green Buffaloes 4-2 on aggregate in the earlier stages of the competition.
Nkana FC have recorded four successive home wins in the competition. Coach Beston Chambeshi of the 1990 CAF Champions League runners up will hope that forward Walter Bwalya will be fit and be at his best. He will be without 2012 Afcon Champion Chisamba Lungu who will be sidelined for the next six months and explosive winger Harrison Chisala.
The Zambians know the importance of this home game.
At the Kasarani Stadium in Kenya, Gor Mahia welcomes Morocco’s Renaissance Sportive Berkane.
The ‘Mighty Gor’ is playing this game under very difficult conditions. Not only are their players striking for unpaid match bonuses and salaries, some very important players and the coach will be absent. On Saturday at their Toyoyo training camp none of their players showed up.
Their Cypriot coach Hassan Oktay was sent off by Moroccan referee Redouane Jiyed for questioning and protecting his decisions in their final Group D game against Petro Atletico of Luanda. His assistant Zedekiah Otieno has to step up and lead the team.
They will also be without goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch who is suffering from a shoulder injury, they however have an able replacement in Peter Odhiambo.
Their reliable Ugandan left back Shafik Batambuze will also be suspended for both legs after seeing red in that last game in Group D. Other suspended players include Ernest Wendo, Jacques Tuyisenge the Rwandan national team captain with four goals in the tournaments and club captain Harun Shakava. Otieno will likely turn to Charles Momanyi as a replacement for Shakava in defense. Wingers Francis Kahata with one goal and three assists, Nicolas Kipkirui with two goals and Boniface Omondi have to continue doing what they they do best for a team whose seven out of eight goals in the competition have come from the wings with six scored directly by wingers. Central midfielders Kenneth Muguna and Lawrence Juma will have to produce more. They will also depend on old fox Denis Oliech to bring his experience and goal scoring touch.
Gor Mahia have conceded only two goals this season at home and that was against Zamalek. Since 2013, they have conceded five goals in ten home matches keeping seven clean sheets in that process. Gor Mahia finished second in Group D behind Zamalek of Egypt.
New comers to this level of continental club football Renaissance Sportive Berkane will depend on the goal poaching abilities of experienced Burkinabe forward Alan Traoré and Togolese forward Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba.
Two times Moroccan champions Hassania Agadir will host 12 times Egyptian Champions Zamalek of Cairo. The Egyptian giants are looking to end a 16years wait for African club glory despite winning the African champions league on five occasions. Zamalek topped Group D but coach Christian Gross will be without many key players. Club captain Hazem Emam and Mostafa Fathi are injured while Ferjani Sassi and Hamid Ahdad are suspended. Kahraba Madbouli and Ayman Hefny were left out of the side for tactical reasons. Agadir qualifies for the quarterfinals as runners up from Group A and fully understand the stakes of the game and knows the history of their opponents as their goalkeeper Abdelrahman El-Houasli puts it.
“We have a historic game awaiting us against a huge opponent. One of the giants of African football” Houasli acknowledged.
“We’ll be entering the game with very highly motives. We have nothing to lose, all of the pressure is on Zamalek…”
2006 and 2015 champions Etoile Sahel with their 19years old Cameroon defensive midfielder Jacques Amour Taghnou Mbe will be hosting 1992 CAF Champions League runners up Al Hilal of Omdurman. Etoile’s coach Roger Lemerre who led the French National team to European cup of nations glory in 2000, will try to set up his team to contain the competition’s top scorer Waleed Bakhet with six goals alongside eliminated Enugu Rangers striker Godwin Aguda, and make sure to get at least a vital goal to keep their dreams of making it to the next round and hope for a third title in the competition.
The Moroccan and Tunisian clubs dodged themselves in the quarterfinals in a competition that they have outrightly dominated, winning nine out of fifteen finals. There are two Tunisian, two Moroccan, one Egyptian, one Sudanese and one Zambian club still left in the competition with the possibility of an all Moroccan semifinal in one of the semifinals.
The return leg games will be played on April 14, 2019.