The final and decisive group stage matches of the CAF Champions League will be played this Saturday March 16, 2019 to determine which teams will qualify for the knockout stages.
2001 finalists and 2016 winners of the competition Mamelodi Sundowns of Pretoria will be looking for a draw against 2017 winners Wydad of Casablanca. Wydad’s 69 years old Tunisian coach Faouzi Benzarti has been a coach since he was 29 year, he certainly knows how to play such high stakes games. Pitso Mosimane’s Sundowns currently tops the group on 10 points, three more than Wydad and ASEC Mimosas who both have 7points. Only Lobi Stars of Nigeria have been eliminated already in this group and they will entertain 1998 winners ASEC Mimosas in Nigeria for the other game in the group. ASEC’s coach Amani Yao Cesar Lambert knows it’s a difficult trip but he can count on the safe hands of goalkeeper Abdul Karim Cisse, the creativity and hard work of midfielders Lamine Ndao and Ibrahim Bance as well as the keen eye for goals of Ahmed Touré who scored both goals in their 2-0 win against Wydad in their last game.
Three times African champions and defending champions Esperance of Tunis have already booked their place in the next round with a 4points gap at the top of the table in Group B. Esperance will be traveling to Zimbabwe in a game of honour agains already eliminated FC Platinum. The Zimbabwean outfit will get back 20 years old Cameroon forward Albert Dieudonne Eonde who did not travel with them to South Africa to face Orlando Pirates due to visa problems, but they will miss defender Kelvin Moyo who was sent off against Pirates. Norman Mapeza’s team are out of the competition but have their pride to play for. Experienced and highly rated Cameroon midfielder Franck Kom who scored Esperance’s second against Horoya will try to dominate the midfield again as he has been doing for the past years.
The game of greater interest in the group is the clash between third placed Orlando Pirates on 6points and second placed Horoya of Guinea with 7 points. It’s a game of winner takes all, though a draw can take Patrice Neveu’s team who are following in the footsteps of the great Hafia FC in the 70s to put back Guinean football on the map of African club competitions, through the next round. For 1995 champions Orlando Pirates it’s victory or nothing, so they will try to fire from all cylinders though Horoya will benefit from the support of their home support. Cameroon’s 30 years old forward Jean Francis Dipita Ebele is amongst the players at the disposal of Horoya’s coach to make the difference.
Algerian outfit CS Constantine travel to the DRC to face five time winners TP Mazembe. Constantine are currently top of the group with 10points, while Mazembe are second with 8 just one more than Club Africain in third place. Only 1969 winners Ismaily of Egypt are playing just for pride. Pamphile Mihayo the coach of TP Mazembe knows that it’s a game that will be decided by the little details. While Constantine are not a household name in the African champions league, they have certainly been punching above their weight thanks to their experienced coach Denis Lavagne. The Frenchman led Cotonsport to the finals in 2008 which they lost to Al Ahly. A draw will be enough to see them through, but giving that Mazembe needs to win to make sure of their qualification it promises to be cracker. Both coaches have Cameroonians in their ranks they could turn to for the difference. While former Bamboutous of Mbouda winger Moussa Abagana is not yet one that Mihayo depends on, former UMS of Loum main man Arouna Dang is firmly in plans of Denis Lavagne.
Victor Zvunka’s Club Africain who suffered a humiliating 8-0 defeat against TP Mazembe in match Day 3, have since picked themselves up and are still in contention for a place in the next round of the competition. They will be playing at home against Ismaily who have just two points. Cameroon’s Ibrahim Mouchili and his teammates know that the Egyptians are no pushovers despite their current number of points. Former FC Metz coach Victor Zvunka has been in the continent long enough to know that in such a game there is no room for complacency. A win will take Club Africain to 10points which might just be enough to book them a place in the next round especially as they have a negative seven goals different as a result of the disgraceful 8-0 defeat. So a win is imperative for them.
Group D is the only group with all four teams still in contention. 1993 CAF Cup finalist Simba FC from Tanzania with 6points are bottom of the group, they will host last season’s CAF Confederations Cup unfortunate finalists AS vita Club of Lubumbashi. The 19 times Tanzanian Champions were comfortably beaten by JS Saoura 2-0 in match Day 5, Wekunda Wa Msimbani as they are popularly known will give their all for a win against Florent Ibenge’s team which has two very reliable men at both ends. AS Vita club’s 38 years old Cameroon goalkeeper and captain Lukong Nelson Bongaman inspires confidence with his numerous miraculous safes, while on the other end Jean Marc Mundele Makussu is a handful for any defense. Mundele has already scored five goals in the competition this far. Simba FC’s Belgian coach Patrick Aussem will hope that goalkeeper Aishi Manula and strikers John Rocco and Meddie Kagere will be at their best.
Eight times African champions Al Ahly with their experienced group of players will fight for a place in the next round against JS Saoura who are above them in the log by one point. Al Ahly’s Uruguayan coach Martin Lasarte would have been working on the training on finishing to avoid what happened to Junior Ajayi, Karim Nedved and Nasser Maher in their last game against AS Vita Club. Deputy goalkeeper Ali Lofti who will be playing in place of the injured El- Shennawy knows there is no run for errors. JS Saoura’s 49 years old coach Karim Zaoui will fine tune his preferred 4-3-3 formation to try and end at least a draw in Egypt and continue to enjoy their fiery tale run in the competition.
It promises to be an interesting and entertaining day in Africa’s top club football competition and as always www.kick442.com will be there to give you all the updates.