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CAF Champions League: Group stage outlook with two matches remaining

The 2023-24 CAF Champions League group stage has two match days remaining and there is plenty at stake for Africa’s top clubs with two quarterfinal places up for grabs in each group. Historically successful clubs like South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns, DR Congo’s TP Mazembe and defending Champions League winners Al Ahly of Egypt are in good positions but other traditional giants like Wydad AC of Morocco and Tunisia’s Espérance ST have plenty of work to do. Read about the situation in each group below as the fifth match day gets set to kick off this weekend:

Group A

Teboho Mokoena (Left) and Mamelodi Sundowns are through to the quarterfinals with a victory in Mauritania this weekend while Ibrahima Keita (Right) and TP Mazembe can advance at the expense of Pyramids FC withvictory at home

Table

Remaining Fixtures

MD5

TP Mazembe (COD) vs Pyramids FC (EGY)- February 24

FC Nouadhibou (MRT) vs Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA)- February 24

MD6

Pyramids FC (EGY) vs FC Nouadhibou (MRT)- March 2

Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA) vs TP Mazembe (COD)- March 2

Outlook

  • Congolese giants TP Mazembe and 2023 African Football League champions Mamelodi Sundowns are masters of their destiny at this point regarding qualification to the quarterfinals. A victory for Mazembe this weekend at their home fortress in Lubumbashi against Egyptian big spenders Pyramids FC will guarantee passage to the quarterfinals and the odds favor the Ravens. Pyramids struggled mightily with the heat and humidity when Mazembe defeated them 2-0 in the same venue in the 2021-22 CAF Confederation Cup quarterfinals and this Mazembe team have plenty of confidence to seize control of the match.
  • The high quality in the Sundowns squad was on full display in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with many players from the club playing important roles for third place finishers South Africa. A difficult clash awaits against FC Nouadhibou in Mauritania this weekend but the South African club champions will be confident considering their high ability to earn results away from home. A draw is all Sundowns need to secure passage to the quarterfinals before they host Mazembe on the final day with the status of Group A winners at stake.
  • FC Nouadhibou are showing their qualities on the big stage after years of success in Mauritanian domestic football but the recent transfer window was not kind to the club who need results to continue their continental journey. After playing for the Mauritania national team at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, attacker Sidi Bouna Amar is gone to Morocco’s Wydad AC and star striker Hemeya Tanjy left for Libya’s Al-Ittihad. The odds are against the Mauritanian champions but a victory at home against Sundowns would give them hope of progressing on the final day.
  • Pyramids FC are doing reasonably well so far in the Egyptian Premier League this season but once again their continental journey is not going to plan. A draw or a victory in DR Congo is necessary for the Cairo club who have only managed one goal in four Group A matches so far. The defense and midfield is formidable for Pyramids but their attack is continuing to struggle and good performances are needed from the likes of Egypt national team wingers Mostafa Fathi and Ibrahim Adel (who is making progress after a long injury) as well as South African striker Fagrie Lakay.

Group B

Serge Pokou (Left) and Ivorian giants ASEC Mimosas have a comfortable lead at the top of Group B; a disastrous 2023-24 season leaves captain Yahya Jabrane (Right) and Wydad AC of Morocco in need of a victory in Botswana at Jwaneng Galaxy or last season’s finalists are eliminated

Table

Remaining Fixtures

MD5

ASEC Mimosas (CIV) vs Simba SC (TZA)- February 23

Jwaneng Galaxy (BWA) vs Wydad AC (MAR)- February 24

MD6

Wydad AC (MAR) vs ASEC Mimosas (CIV)- March 2

Simba SC (TZA) vs Jwaneng Galaxy (BWA)- March 2

Outlook

  • ASEC Mimosas continue to excel in CAF club competitions with an entirely domestic squad composed of Ivorian players. A draw at home against Simba SC this weekend will leave Les Mimos all but assured of winning Group B and qualification for the quarterfinals is already guaranteed. Group stage leading scorer Karamoko Sankara left for the Austrian Bundesliga during the January transfer window but there remains a strong balance of experience in the defense and plenty of firepower in the attack even with the departure of Sankara.
  • An important victory in December against Wydad kept Simba in a decent position to qualify for the quarterfinals but the Tanzanian side must not relax. A defeat in Ivory Coast against ASEC could leave the Reds in trouble even if they defeat Jwaneng Galaxy at home on the final day in the case of a Wydad victory against the Botswana champions this weekend. A draw this weekend would be reassuring to Simba supporters whose team have not been quite as prolific in attack as seen in previous years.
  • With a stunning victory in Casablanca against Wydad, Jwaneng Galaxy proved they are here to compete but lost some momentum with consecutive defeats to ASEC Mimosas by a combined 5-0 score home and away. Galaxy have six victories from seven matches so far this year in the Botswana Premier League and Saturday’s home clash against Wydad is a must win. Goalkeeper Goiseone Phoko has performed well and he and his defense must avoid costly errors in what will likely be a close match against Wydad decided by narrow margins.
  • A poor 2023-24 campaign in all competitions for Moroccan giants Wydad leaves them needing victories from their final two matches to avoid crashing out at the group stage. Tunisian coach Faouzi Benzarti took over from Moroccan counterpart Adil Ramzi in December but the results have not noticeably improved amid news of player discontent with the club’s management, most notably Morocco national team left back Yahia Attiyat-Allah who departed for Russian football. However, a victory against RS Berkane in league play earlier this week could set the stage for a revival and newly acquired Nigerian striker Ade Oguns has three goals in four matches since joining.

Group C

The Tunisian Classico (Left) between Tunis rivals Espérance ST and Étoile du Sahel has much at stake this weekend while coach Florent Ibengé (Right) and his Al-Hilal team need a victory against Group C leaders Petro de Luanda

Table

Remaining Fixtures

MD5

Al-Hilal Omdurman (SDN) vs Petro de Luanda (ANG)- February 23

Étoile du Sahel (TUN) vs Espérance ST (TUN)- February 24

MD6

Espérance ST (TUN) vs Al-Hilal Omdurman (SDN)- March 2

Petro de Luanda (ANG) vs Étoile du Sahel (TUN)- March 2

Outlook

  • Petro de Luanda have played three league matches so far in February in Angola’s Girabola and the Group C leaders will fancy their chances against Sudan’s Al-Hilal, who will host this weekend’s match in Libya due to the war in Sudan. Petro have yet to allow a goal through four matches and a draw in Libya will confirm advancement to the quarterfinals for a club who continue to prove their high level in Africa’s top interclub competition.
  • After a 2022-23 season that saw them surprisingly miss out on the title in Tunisia’s Ligue 1, Espérance are bouncing back this season with the best record by far in the opening stage of their domestic league. As always, a lot is at stake when EST face hated rivals Étoile du Sahel but the Blood and Gold will be confident they can get the win they desire to secure a spot in the quarterfinals after defeating ESS 2-0 in the first Group C clash back in late November.
  • A defeat to Olympique Béja in January’s Tunisian Super Cup was surprising for Étoile du Sahel and the reigning Tunisian league champions have their backs against the wall for this weekend’s Tunisian Classico duel with Espérance ST. The defense remains solid for ESS, who finished top of their group in the first stage of Tunisia’s Ligue 1, but the attack is sputtering and it will be difficult to find goals against their rivals in a derby match that is always hard fought.
  • It has been particularly difficult circumstances for Sudanese champions Al-Hilal, who have not been without regular matches and the ability to host Champions League matches in Sudan due to the ongoing war in the country. However this team remains a talented group with an experienced manager in Florent Ibengé who have all done well to remain in contention for a spot in the quarterfinals. A victory this weekend against Petro is necessary but this team is very capable of getting the three points they need as well as a positive result against Espérance in Tunisia on the final day.

Group D

Tanzanian champions Young Africans (Left) need a victory against CR Belouizdad in Dar es Salaam while defending African champions Al Ahly can avoid stress on the final day with a victory in Ghana over Medeama (Right)

Table

Remaining Fixtures

MD5

Medeama SC (GHA) vs Al Ahly (EGY)- February 23

Young Africans (TZA) vs CR Belouizdad (DZA)- February 24

MD6

Al Ahly (EGY) vs Young Africans (TZA)- March 2

CR Belouizdad (DZA) vs Medeama SC (GHA)- March 2

Outlook

  • Defending CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly are narrow leaders and looked a bit rusty in their first match of 2024 last weekend, a 0-0 draw at Algeria’s CR Belouizdad. However, Marcel Koller’s team are well rested and can secure qualification to the quarterfinals with a victory at Medeama in Ghana which might pose a significant challenge. Reliable goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy remains out due to injury after suffering a dislocated shoulder with Egypt at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
  • CR Belouizdad are in excellent shape if they can get a draw in Tanzania against Young Africans, a very difficult task. However a defeat does not eliminate Le Chabab who can maintain the head-to-head advantage over Yanga if they can avoid a 3-0 defeat or a worse result. CRB are not in the best form at the moment but their strong defense is capable of limiting the dangerous Yanga attack.
  • After a 3-0 defeat in Algeria to CR Belouizdad earlier in the group stage and a very difficult trip to Egypt for their final Group D match at Al Ahly on the final day, this weekend contains a must-win match for Yanga against CRB. Yanga are undefeated through five league matches in 2024 and rested their best players for a cup match earlier this week, leaving the Citizens confident they can perform well against CRB in front of their passionate home support.
  • Ghanaian champions Medeama have surpassed expectations to still be in contention at this stage and now the Mauve and Yellow must defy the experts once again by defeating African champions Al Ahly at home this weekend. The form of Medeama in the Ghana Premier League is not particularly inspiring and striker Jonathan Sowah is suspended for the Ahly match but they are undefeated in two home Group D matches.

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