Enyimba vs Raja 14:00
Hilal vs Coton Sport 22:00
Wydad vs Esperance 22:00
JOHANNESBURG - The CAF Champions League group stage hits the half-way mark this weekend with some big sides knowing they must push their way up the table now, while some are already eyeing the four spots in the semi-finals.
In both groups there are two teams on four points and two with one. In Group A, Nigeria’s Enyimba and Sudan’s Al Hilal have impressed thus far, and they will host the sides chasing them: Raja Casablanca from Morocco and Coton Sport of Cameroon respectively.
In Group B, the teams at the top - Esperance of Tunisia and Raja’s city rivals Wydad - face off in Casablanca. The group’s other match is also a north African derby, with the continent’s most-successful club of all time.
Sunday’s contest at the top of the table between Esperance and Wydad should be revealing as both have lifted this trophy before and they are veterans of the continental game.
The Tunisians have a stronger pedigree, having reached the final of the Champions League three times, including last year, and they appear to be building momentum after winning the league for the third year running.
Midfielder and captain Oussama Darragi continues to be a key figure for the Blood and Gold pulling the creative strings, and the addition of new Cameroonian signing Yannick Ndjeng proved a spur after he headed in the only goal in last round’s vital win over Ahly.
Looking for home comfort
In Group A, Enyimba are pacesetters, and they recorded an impressive 3-2 win last round at Coton Sport after having been pegged back twice. Uche Kalu tallied his second and third goals of the group stage, including the winner in Garoua.
The two-time African champions from Aba have fallen well off the pace in the Nigerian Premier League, so they’re focused squarely on returning to the Champions League last four, a stage that they reached the last time they were in this event in 2008.
They will no doubt have to fight to take full advantage of Raja Casablanca, a three-time winner of the competition between 1989 and 1999 who won the Moroccan Botola this season after finishing second last year.
Their new coach, Ilie Balaci, has not enjoyed the best of starts after his team were eliminated in the domestic Throne Cup this past weekend, but he says his side are determined to impress in the Champions League after drawing with Coton Sport at home and losing 1-0 at Hilal in the last round.