The race towards the 2021-22 TotalEnergies CAF Champions League title will continue as the group phase of the competition starts with thrilling encounters on Friday.
Defending champions Al Ahly will be unengaged as they are currently in the United Arab Emirates for the FIFA Club World Cup and in their absence, those who wish to inherit the title will look to make their presence felt.
Mamelodi Sundowns vs Al Hilal – 1600Hrs GMT
Sundowns, champions from the 2016 season will look to start their campaign towards a second continental crown when they host Sudanese side Al Hilal at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
The Brazilians have been in good form this season on the domestic front and their preliminary fixtures in the Champions League and will look to translate that form against a tricky Hilal side.
The Sudanese giants are also looking to have a better performance in continental football having exited at the group stage level consecutively over the last two seasons.
Etoile du Sahel v CR Belouizdad – 1600Hrs GMT
Tunisian side Etoile, winners of the Champions League title in 2007 are back in the Champions League after one season and will be out to do their best at home against a tricky Belouizdad side from Algeria.
The Algerians reached the quarter finals of the competition last season where they exited at the hands of a Tunisian opponent, losing on penalties after a 2-2 draw over the two legs. They won the first leg 2-0 at home but lost the second leg by a similar margin in Rades.
Wydad Club Athletic v Sagrada Esperanca – 1900Hrs GMT
Angolan champions Sagrada will be playing their first continental match since 2006 when they were eliminated at the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League. They hope to make a statement return against a tough Wydad side.
Wydad have reached the semi-final level in three consecutive seasons, having gone all the way to the final in 2018-19 while they twice in succession made it into the semis over the last two seasons.
ES Tunis vs Jwaneng Galaxy – 1300Grs GMT
Botswana champions Jwaneng are preparing for their maiden bow in continental football. They make their start in one of the toughest tests, away to Esperance in Rades.
Esperance, four-time winners of the Champions League are also looking to quench their thirst for the title, having last won it in the 2018-19 season. A victory at home against the debutants will be a confident way to make their start.
Horoya vs ES Setif – 1600Hrs GMT
Guinean outfit Horoya will be at home, facing off with Algerian side Setif. After reaching the semis of the Confederation Cup in the 2018-19 season, Horoya have made the group stages of the Champions League twice in succession over the subsequent seasons.
They have however never made it into the quarterfinals or beyond and this season, that is one of the ducks they aim to break.
Setif, winners of the Champions League in 2014 are making a return to the competition for the first time since 2018 when they reached the semi-finals.
Zamalek vs Petro de Luanda – 1600Hrs GMT
Egyptian giants Zamalek, under the tutelage of Patrice Carteron, reached the final of the 2019-20 season but failed to make it out of the group phase last season. Their aim this year is to do better and will look to have a positive start in Alexandria against the Angolan outfit.
Petro have managed to reach the group stage in consecutive seasons over the last two campaigns, but have failed to progress into the quarterfinals.
Raja Club Athletic v Amazulu – 1900 Hrs
Benni MacCarthy, winner of the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto, looks to translate that same success on home soil with South African side Amazulu. The team is making its maiden appearance in the group stages of the Champions League and have vowed to make it count.
They come up for their first match away to Moroccan side Raja, who are seeking their fourth African title.
Raja have negative memories from last season’s Champions League campaign where they were eliminated in the first round by Senegalese debutants Teungueth. This season, they aim to do better.
Enoch loves to write about intriguing issues in entertainment, sports, and general news