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Competition for quarterfinal spots heats up in Champions League

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Competition for quarterfinal spots heats up in Champions League - Sports Leo

The competition is heating up as six places for the quarterfinals are still up for grabs as the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League 2020 reaches the penultimate round.

Five-time winners TP Mazembe and 2016 champions, Mamelodi Sundowns wrapped up their places at the end of the day four matches two weeks ago.

Others are expected to join the last eight with holders Esperance of Tunisia, last season’s runners-up Wydad Athletic Club and their city rivals, Raja Club Athletic, both from Morocco, Egyptian duo Al Ahly and Zamalek and El Hilal of Sudan in contention to complete the octet.

In Group A, Zamalek are in pole position to join Mazembe as the two teams from the group to the next round as they welcome Mazembe to Cairo. Under Frenchman Patrice Carteron, the White Knights have yet to taste defeat in the competition managing two home wins and an away draw.

Incidentally, their only loss remains the 3-0 defeat to Mazembe in the opening match. It will be an emotional game for Carteron who guided Mazembe to continental glory in 2015. Another boost for Zamalek is the return of DR Congo marksman Kabongo Kasongo after a stint abroad.

In Ndola, Zesco and Primeiro de Agosto will look to boost their rankings in a match of equals.

In Group B, tricky duels are up for the weekend with the top three teams, Etoile du Sahel, Ahly and Hilal having equal chances.

Results going the way of any of the three teams can influence the standings, with the possibility of going down to the wire. FC Platinum will still be searching for their first win against Hilal, who will be under the guidance of their third coach in the group stage with Al-Fateh Al-Nager. Al-Nager replaced Egyptian Hamada Sedki after the day four 2-1 home loss to Etoile.

Elsewhere in Cairo, Ahly and Etoile will revive their rivalry with the former needing nothing short of the maximum points to remain in contention for a last-eight berth.

In Group C, with Sundowns already through, Wydad are highly favoured to claim the group’s other slot.

The Moroccans have a new coach Sebastien Desabre, who replaced Serbian Zoran Manojlović who was fired a few days after the 2-2 draw away to Petro de Luanda a fortnight ago. It will be Desabre’s second stint with the Casablanca giants after the 2016-17 season, and he will be hoping for a convincing win against struggling USM Alger. Victory will be enough to send Wydad into the quarters for the fourth successive time.

Meanwhile, Angola’s Petro are hoping for their first win when they play host to Sundowns in Luanda.

In Group D, leaders Esperance and second-placed Raja face off in one of the biggest games of the weekend on Saturday in Tunis.

The holders, unbeaten and also yet to concede are poised to complete a double over Green Eagles to reach the knockout stage. Since losing 2-0 to Esperance in the group opener, Raja have come back strongly – amassing seven points from a possible nine in their last three games.

Win-less AS Vita will be at home at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa to welcome JS Kabylie in a battle of former winners.

In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo

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