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Thursday 14 October 2021
The Arab teams are looking forward to getting close to reaching the group stage of the African Champions League, when they play the first leg of the 32nd round of the continental competition, which begins on Friday.
While a number of Arab clubs start their matches this season for the most important and strongest club in the continent, others competed in the preliminary round of the tournament.
Al-Ahly of Egypt, the holder of the championship title in the last two editions and the record holder in the number of times to win the championship with 10 titles, begins his career in the new version of the competition against its host, the National Guard of Niger.
The fans of Al-Ahly were well pleased with their team’s confrontation with the Niger champion, especially since the red team started its march last season for the championship by facing Sunedib, who represented Niger in the competition at the time, to beat him 5-0 in the total of the first and return matches, before making his way towards the tenth title.
The Egyptian team suffers from the loss of its main goalkeeper, Mohamed El-Shennawy, who will be out of action for a period ranging from 4 to 5 weeks, after suffering a muscle injury during his participation with the (Pharaohs) team during its 3-0 victory over its host Libya in the African qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup.
On the other hand, the Egyptian Zamalek is a guest of the Kenyan Tusker, who has previously faced the two poles of Egyptian football on more than one occasion, as the white team, who owns 5 titles in the Champions League, dreams of achieving a good start, hoping to grab the title absent from him since 2002.
Zamalek had previously met its Kenyan rival in the same round of the 2005 edition, where the Egyptian team won 1-0 in the first leg in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, before repeating its superiority by winning 3/1 in Cairo.
Tunisia’s Esperance is facing a risky meeting against its Libyan host, Al-Ittihad, who seeks to achieve a surprise in this Arab confrontation and overthrow the Tunisian team, which has won the title 4 times.
And this will be the second season in a row, in which Esperance begins its career in the tournament by facing a Libyan team, after it had previously passed the obstacle of Al-Ahly Benghazi with great difficulty in the 32nd round of the last edition of the competition, having tied in the first leg without goals, and won 3/2 in the last moments. Meet the return in Tunisia.
As for Etoile du Sahel, the second representative of Tunisian football in the tournament this season, it returns to the continental championship that it missed last season, against its host, the Rwandan army.
The star aims to cross the Rwandan team’s obstacle and achieve a broad result, through which he sends a message to his competitors about coming strongly to compete for the title he won once in 2007.
The team, nicknamed “The Jewel of the Coast”, participated in the African Confederation Cup last season, but it left the competition early, by leaving the group stage.
After passing the preliminary round with great difficulty, ES Setif and CR Belouizdad, the representatives of Algerian football in the tournament this season, aspire to move forward in the competition, whose title was often missed by the Algerian clubs.
ES Setif will visit Mauritania’s Nouadhibou in a purely Arab meeting, while Chebab Belouizdad will meet with its host, ASEC Mimosa, the Ivorian, who won the tournament in 1998, seeking to restore its African luster that was absent from it for quite some time.
ES Setif, winner of the tournament in 1988 and 2014, ascended to the round of 32, after he managed to compensate for his 0-3 loss against Fortun the Gambian in the first leg, after winning the same result in the return match in Algeria, so that the two teams ruled for penalty shootouts that finally smiled for the Algerian team.
As for Belouizdad, who is still dreaming of winning his first title, he overcame the Nigerian team, Akwa United, who lost 0/1 in the first leg away from his home, before beating his opponent 2-0 in the second leg.
Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca faces a task that is not easy, when it collides with its Ghanaian host, Hearts of Oak, who crowned the tournament in 2000, as this is the only confrontation in this round between two teams who previously held the championship cup.
Wydad, who won the championship in 1992 and 2017, wants to make a strong start in the African competition, as happened this season in the Moroccan Professional League, which saw it top the standings after achieving 4 victories and a single draw in its first five matches.
For his part, Moroccan Raja Casablanca, who won the title in 1989, 1997 and 1999, fears a repeat of his early exit from the 32nd round of the tournament, when he meets his Liberian host Oilers (unknown).
Raja was bid farewell to the tournament last season in the round of 32 against Senegalese Tongeth, to move to play in the Confederation Cup, where he continued his career in the tournament, which he crowned at the expense of Algeria’s JS Kabylie in the final.
Sudan’s Al-Merreikh will meet Zambian Zanaco, while its arch-rivals Al-Hilal will face its Nigerian host Rivers United, after they narrowly passed the preliminary round competitions.
The two Sudanese teams qualified for the round of 32, after they benefited from their superiority in the goal difference scored outside their stadiums over their competitors in the preliminary round, which was invoked according to the competition regulations after they were equal with them in the total of the first and return results.
Al-Marikh lost 1/2 from its Ugandan host Express, in the first leg, before winning 1-0 in the return match that was held at its stadium, while Al-Hilal drew 2/2 with its Ethiopian host Fasil Ketima in the first leg, then tied 1/1 back in Sudan.
The first leg of the round of 32 will witness another set of important meetings, as South Africa’s Amazulu meets its guest, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Manema Anion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, and the Mali stadium with Houria Conakry of Guinea.
He will also meet Botswana’s Gauteng Galaxy with Simba of Tanzania, Sagrada Esperanca of Angola with Royal Leopards of Eswatini, and Otho Deo of Congo with Petro Atlético of Angola.