Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – The race for the 16 coveted spots in this season’s TotalEnergies CAF Champions League group stage is reaching its climax this weekend as the final qualifying round second-leg matches unfold.
Last year’s runners-up, Wydad AC, have a chance to secure their place as they face Hafia FC at home following a 1-1 draw in the first leg against the Guinean champions last weekend.
One of the most highly anticipated clashes features Moroccan club AS FAR Rabat, facing a daunting task against Tunisian powerhouse Etoile Sportive du Sahel, who hold a slender 1-0 first-leg lead.
Two-time African champions, DR Congo’s TP Mazembe, are aiming for a return to the competition after missing the last two editions. They hold the upper hand with a vital 1-0 away victory against Malawi’s Big Bullets.
Reigning Tunisian champions, Espérance de Tunis, are on the brink of qualification after narrowly defeating Ivorian club AS Douanes 1-0 in the opening encounter.
Algeria’s CR Belouizdad are poised to secure a fourth consecutive group stage spot after convincingly defeating Sierra Leone’s Bo Rangers 3-1 away in their first-leg tie.
South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns are set to advance comfortably, boasting a commanding 4-0 advantage over Burundi’s Bumamuru FC.
Meanwhile, Guinea’s Horoya AC have a lifeline following Medeama SC’s surprising 3-1 first-leg win in Ghana. Horoya will look to overturn the deficit at home.
Tanzania’s Young Africans and Zambia’s Green Eagles hold slim first-leg leads over Sudanese and Angolan opponents, respectively.
On the other hand, Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy and Rwanda’s APR FC registered impressive home wins in their opening legs against South African and Egyptian rivals.
Two goals by defender Kinito Balanga secured a 2-1 victory for Petro Atletico over UD Songo in their first-leg tie. Petro Atletico are favoured to secure their qualification next week in Luanda.
FC Nouadhibou of Mauritania shocked Malian side AS Real de Bamako by trouncing them 3-0 in Bamako. Nouadhibou, by avoiding defeat in the second leg, could make their first-ever appearance in the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League group stage.
In another fixture, Libyan club Al Ahly Benghazi played to a scoreless draw against ASEC Mimosas at home. Both teams will have everything to play for in the second leg in Abidjan.
The elite stage of the CAF Champions League awaits Africa’s giants. However, some teams still have work to do to secure progress in this week’s all-important second-leg deciders. BT/30/9/2023