Friday, June 22, 2007
The African Champions League gets back into swing this weekend, with a full slate of games on hand.
Egyptian giants and holders Al Ahly set out in search of an unprecedented third successive Champions League title when they host Sudan’s Al Hilal at home on the first weekend of the group phase of the competition. Ahly start as strong favorites in a field of eight sides, seven of which come from the Arabic-speaking North of the continent.
Ahly will have Mohamed Aboutrika, the catalyst for their success in last year’s competition, back from injury for Sunday’s match, having overcome a groin strain picked up in an international friendly for Egypt in Kuwait last week.
Al Hilal compete in the group phase of the Champions League for the first time and on the back of Sudan’s qualification last weekend for the African Cup of Nations finals.
Nine players from Al Hilal featured in the 2-0 win in the Seychelles on Saturday that saw Sudan qualify for the Nations Cup finals for the first time since 1976.
In addition to the champions game, Esperance of Tunisia face Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast at Al-Menzah Stadium in Tunisia Saturday followed by FAR Rabat of Morocco against Etoile Sahel of Tunisia at Moulay Abdallah Stadium in the Moroccan capital.
In the other game, Al-Ittihad of Libya, the first club from the north African country to get this far, host twice title holders JS Kabylie of Algeria in Tripoli to launch a 24-fixture pool programme involving eight clubs. This game takes place on Friday.
FAR and Etoile look a cut above their rivals in the weaker Group A and Ahly, ASEC and Esperance should slug it out for the two semi-finals slots from Group B where even outsiders Hilal look no pushovers.
Only the bravest would predict the likely champions at this stage, especially as the coach of obvious choice Ahly admits his star-laced squad are weary after endless domestic and international commitments.
Here's a list of the games coming up. The top two finishers in the two groups advance to the semifinals. The winner of the Champions League plays in December in the Club World Cup in Japan. Enjoy the action as Africa crowns a club champion!
P W D L GF GA Pts
FAR Rabat (MOR) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Etoile du Sahel (TUN) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Al Ittihad (LBY) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
JS Kabylie (ALG) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
22-24/06/07: FAR Rabat (MOR) v Etoile du Sahel (TUN)
22-24/06/07: Al Ittihad (LBY) v JS Kabylie (ALG)
06-08/07/07: Etoile du Sahel (TUN) v Al Ittihad (LBY)
06-08/07/07: JS Kabylie (ALG) v FAR Rabat (MOR)
20-22/07/07: FAR Rabat (MOR) v Al Ittihad (LBY)
20-22/07/07: Etoile du Sahel (TUN) v JS Kabylie (ALG)
03-05/08/07: Al Ittihad v FAR Rabat
03-05/08/07: JS Kabylie v Etoile du Sahel
17-19/08/07: Etoile du Sahel v FAR Rabat
17-19/08/07: JS Kabylie v Al Ittihad
31-02/09/07: Al Ittihad v
Etoile du Sahel 31-02/09/07: FAR Rabat v JS Kabylie
P W D L GF GA Pts
Ahly (EGY) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Al Hilal (SUD) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Esperance (TUN) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Asec Mimosas (CIV) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
22-24/06/07: Ahly (EGY) v Al Hilal (SUD)
22-24/06/07: Esperance (TUN) v Asec Mimosas (CIV)
06-08/07/07: Al Hilal v Esperance
06-08/07/07: Asec Mimosas v Ahly
20-22/07/07: Ahly v Esperance
20-22/07/07: Al Hilal v Asec Mimosas
03-05/08/07: Esperance v Ahly
03-05/08/07: Asec Mimosas v Al Hilal
11-19/08/07: Al Hilal v Ahly
11-19/08/07: Asec Mimosas v Esperance
31-02/09/07: Esperance v Al Hilal
31-02/09/07: Ahly 1-0 Asec Mimosas