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CAF Confederation Cup: Observations and what’s at stake before Match Day Five

It appears the majority of quarterfinalists are set as the group stage closes down in the 2023-24 CAF Confederation Cup but there is still much to play for and room for surprises. With two match days remaining, North African clubs are proving their strength at this level while sub-Saharan African clubs like Dreams FC and Stade Malien have ambitions of making deep runs. See the picture for all four groups and read more about what each team needs to do in our outlook below:

Group A

Defending champions and Group A leaders USM Alger of Algeria (Left) have yet to concede a goal in four group matches while Egypt’s Future FC (Right) are in excellent position to advance as well

Table

Remaining Fixtures

MD5

SuperSport United (RSA) vs Future FC (EGY)- February 25

Al-Hilal Benghazi (LBY) vs USM Alger (DZA)- February 25

MD6

Future FC (EGY) vs Al-Hilal Benghazi (LBY)- March 3

USM Alger (DZA) vs SuperSport United (RSA)- March 3

Outlook

  • Defending Confederation Cup champions USM Alger continue to display the excellent defense they are known for with zero goals conceded through four Group A matches on their way to top spot. Zineddine Belaid is certainly one of the best if not the best defenders in African club football but questions remain regarding the USMA attack which is currently not at the same level as last season.
  • Egypt’s Future FC are experiencing a disappointing Egyptian Premier League campaign but are poised to reach the quarterfinals courtesy of the experience in the squad. A difficult test away from home awaits on Sunday against South Africa’s SuperSport United but Future will do their part to make it difficult for the hosts before concluding their Group A matches with a home duel against Al-Hilal Benghazi.
  • SuperSport United kept their quarterfinal hopes alive with a home victory over Al-Hilal Benghazi in December despite a first half red card to goalkeeper Washington Arubi. However the results have been disappointing in continental competition this season and Matsatsantsa now have to defeat Future FC at home and then they will likely need to win at USM Alger on the final day.
  • A victory this weekend against USM Alger at home could be the spark that Libya’s Al-Hilal Benghazi need. The team is beginning to turn their Libyan Premier League campaign around after some struggles around the new year and still control their own destiny with a trip to Future FC on the final day.

Group B

Egypt and Libya are well represented in Group B where Cairo giants Zamalek (Left) and Abu Salim are all but through to the quarterfinals with two matches remaining

Table

Remaining Fixtures

MD5

Abu Salim SC (LBY) vs Zamalek (EGY)- February 25

Académie SOAR (GUI) vs Sagrada Esperança (ANG)- February 25

MD6

Zamalek (EGY) vs Académie SOAR (GUI)- March 3

Sagrada Esperança (ANG) vs Abu Salim SC (LBY)- March 3

Outlook

  • Difficulties in the Egyptian Premier League have not prevented Zamalek from finding joy in the Confederation Cup where a draw or victory at Abu Salim all but confirms their status as Group B winners. A couple of attacking reinforcements arrived in the new year for the Cairo club including creative midfielders Abdallah Said and former Future FC player Nasser Maher while key player Ahmed Sayed “Zizo” remains after plenty of rumors of an impending exit. Zamalek must be considered one of the favorites to claim the trophy once the knockout stage begins.
  • Libyan club Abu Salim are not the most exciting team to watch but have done very well to win close matches and put themselves in a good position. However they must be careful because if they fail to defeat Zamalek at home this weekend, a difficult match in Angola awaits on the final day against Sagrada Esperança who could overtake Abu Salim with a victory.
  • Sagrada Esperança are still in the hunt for a spot in the quarterfinals but their performances in Group B have been underwhelming. Scoreless in three of their four matches, Sagrada will need to complete a sweep of bottom side Académie SOAR who may be a more difficult opponent now that they will host their final home match in Ivory Coast unlike their previous home matches in North Africa.

Group C

Ghana’s Dreams FC (Left) duel with Tunisian giants Club Africain for first place in Group C this weekend but Nigerian club Rivers United (Right) are eager to overtake whoever slips up for a spot in the quarterfinals

Table

Remaining Fixtures

MD5

Académica do Lobito (ANG) vs Rivers United (NGA)- February 25

Dreams FC (GHA) vs Club Africain (TUN)- February 25

MD6

Club Africain (TUN) vs Académica do Lobito (ANG)- March 3

Rivers United (NGA) vs Dreams FC (GHA)- March 3

Outlook

  • This is by far the tightest and most competitive group but Tunisia’s Club Africain are the Group C leaders and in the best position. A difficult match in Ghana against Dreams FC awaits on Sunday but CA know that all they need to do in order to advance is defeat bottom team Académica at home on the final day. The club from Tunis look impressive and have aspirations of making a run to at least the semifinal stage.
  • Dreams FC are also impressing and now are flying the flag for Ghanaian club football with a major opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals. However it is a slippery slope for the club who have a very difficult away test at Rivers United on the final day, making it important to defeat Club Africain at home on Sunday. A well balanced attack does make Dreams one of the more entertaining sides to watch and the Confederation Cup is a welcome distraction from their middling Ghana Premier League campaign.
  • Nigerian club Rivers United are not enjoying a productive league campaign but are very much alive in the chase to make it to the Confederation Cup quarterfinals for a second consecutive season. Well known as a club that plays excellently at home, Rivers must find a way to win away from home when they face Académica do Lobito in Angola who have yet to collect a point. A victory on Sunday and Rivers know they will advance with a victory at home against Dreams on the final day.

Group D

Burkinabé central defender Issoufou Dayo (Left) is back from 2023 Africa Cup of Nations duty to lead Moroccan club and Group D leaders RS Berkane while Stade Malien need only a draw in Bamako against South Africa’s Sekhukhune United to guarantee their place in the quarterfinals

Table

Remaining Fixtures

MD5

Stade Malien (MLI) vs Diables Noirs (COG)- February 25

Sekhukhune United (RSA) vs RS Berkane (MAR)- February 25

MD6

RS Berkane (MAR) vs Stade Malien (MLI)- March 3

Diables Noirs (COG) vs Sekhukhune United (RSA)- March 3

Outlook

  • Morocco’s RS Berkane are the most reliable club when it comes to the Confederation Cup and have found the goal scoring touch they tend to lack back home in the Botola Pro league competition. Winners of the 2019-20 Confederation Cup as well as the 2021-22 edition, the Orange Boys have a reliable defense and midfield which is so crucial in CAF interclub competitions for clubs who want to reach the final stages.
  • Malian giants Stade Malien need to finish the job on Sunday after a strong first four matches in Group D. A victory at home against last placed Diables Noirs will put Les Blancs beyond reach of the Congolese club as well as closest competitors Sekhukhune United. The club have proven they can get results away from home but must watch out for Diables Noirs who are more capable than their results indicate.
  • Sekhukhune United are experiencing the struggles many clubs have when they make their debut in continental competition with underwhelming results in both the Confederation Cup and South Africa’s DStv Premiership. A win is a must against Group D leaders RS Berkane on Sunday and things are not looking good for the club after they just scraped by lower league competition in domestic cup play on Wednesday, a match that required extra time.
  • Diables Noirs are victims of poor defending and worse circumstances. The club from the Republic of Congo lost their focus at crucial moments in matches like their home clash with Stade Malien and now they must win both remaining matches and receive some help to have any chance of advancing. Don’t be surprised if they make a push starting with Sunday’s match at Stade Malien but it appears to be too late.

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