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Al Ahly close to Champions League last-eight

Al-Ahly’s Egyptian forward Walid Soliman (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the CAF Champions League semifinal first leg football match Al-Ahly vs ES Setif at al-Salam stadium in Cairo on October 2, 2018.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Feb 11 – Record eight-time CAF Champions League trophy-holders Al Ahly of Egypt could this Tuesday become the first club to secure a 2018/2019 quarter-finals place. 

A win for the Cairo Red Devils away to Simba SC of Tanzania — a side they have already caned 5-0 this month — would lift them to 10 points from four matches in Group D.

And that total will guarantee Ahly a last-eight slot unless bottom-of-the-table JS Saoura of Algeria end a three-match winless run by overcoming Congolese visitors V Club.

AFP Sport previews matchday 4 of a Champions League restored to 16 clubs after Ismaily of Egypt were reinstated at the weekend when a crowd-trouble ban was overturned.

Group A

Tiyani Mabunda of Mamelodi Sundowns is challenged by Alejandro Quintana of Wydad during their 2018 CAF Champions League tie on May 5, 2018. PHOTO/AFP

Recent African champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa can all but seal progress to the knockout phase if they collect maximum points.

Wydad should have little difficulty defeating Lobi Stars of Nigeria in Rabat having already done so in west Africa thanks to a Mohamed Nahiri penalty.

Sundowns were far superior to ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast when winning 3-1 in Pretoria with Argentine debutant Emiliano Tade among the goals.

But Abidjan holds bitter memories for the Pretoria club with their last visit ending in a humiliating 6-1 hiding from Africa Sports, the great domestic rivals of ASEC.

Group B

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Esperance players slowing down the pressure as center referee Gehad Zaghloul gives directions during their match against Gor Mahia in Machakos in February 2018. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

Reigning African champions Esperance of Tunisia have thrown away an advantage over Orlando Pirates of South Africa after bringing forward the Tunis kick-off time by six hours.

Instead of a 2000 local time (10pm EAT) start and cold conditions that Pirates believed could affect their performance, the visitors can expect mild mid-afternoon weather.

Esperance will also lack support at Stade el Menzah with the club serving the second half of a two-match ban over crowd trouble last season.

Should the co-leaders draw, as they did in a cagey Soweto clash this month, Horoya of Guinea can climb from third place to first by overcoming FC Platinum of Zimbabwe in Conakry.

Group C

TP Mazembe fans show support for their team during a past match

TP Mazembe of DR Congo are away to Club Africain of Tunisia, the team they humiliated 8-0 this month for a record Champions League group-stage victory.

The north Africans reacted to the debacle by claiming the Congolese had drugged them by injecting substances into their food in Lubumbashi.

Five-time African champions Mazembe then pointed out that Africain had chosen their hotel and brought food, water and a cook from Tunisia.

The Congolese said they expect “fair play” in Rades, a plea they hope will be heeded by the often troublesome supporters of Club Africain.

Group D

Simba SC fans chant and sing happily before Bandari took away all that joy in the Sportpesa Cup semis at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on January 25, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Ahly banged five goals past Simba in Egypt despite lacking nine potential first choices, including loanee Ramadan Sobhi from English Premier League strugglers Huddersfield Town.

But the Egyptians need only check the record books to know the return match in Indian Ocean city Dar es Salaam may be far more difficult — they lost 2-1 there on a previous visit.

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After successive five-goal beatings, Simba hope Meddie Kagere and Clatous Chama can rediscover the form that delivered nine goals between them earlier in the competition.

Saoura came from two goals down to hold V Club in an intimidating Kinshasa fortress and maximum points at home against the Congolese would throw open the race for second place.

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