CAF Champions League hopes for Nigerian clubs
The 2016 CAF Champions League draws made in Senegal this weekend offer South African and Nigerian clubs hope of going further than this year.
Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns represent South Africa again and want to avoid the round-of-32 exits they suffered in the 2015 edition of the premier African club football competition.
Enyimba are one of two Nigerian hopefuls for a second successive year and seek to atone for a last-32 exit this season.
Warri Wolves, the other qualifiers from the west African nation, did not compete this year.
Draws were made in Dakar for the three, two-leg knockout rounds ahead of the lucrative group stage and Chiefs’ path to the last-eight could include a rematch against recent foes.
Volcan of the Comoros should not present too many preliminary-round problems with Chiefs visiting the south-east island state for the first leg.
Former African champions ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast, who face a to-be-named Chadian club first, are the likely round-of-32 opponents of the South Africans, assuming they qualify.
The clubs met in a 2014 CAF Confederation Cup play-off with ASEC winning 2-1 in Soweto and 1-0 in Abidjan against virtual reserve Chiefs sides.
Should the South Africans clear that obstacle, they probably will come up against 2015 semi-finalists Al Hilal of Sudan with a mini-league place up for grabs.
Chiefs consider themselves among the biggest football clubs in Africa, but do not have the silverware to match, winning only the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup 14 years ago.
South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune is Chiefs’ best known footballer, Zimbabwean Willard Katsande is a combative midfielder and Togolese striker Camaldine Abrew a recent addition.
Sundowns, an expensively assembled Pretoria-based outfit owned by mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, were Champions League runners-up the same year Chiefs achieved African glory.
Coach Pitso Mosimane craves continental success and his squad includes Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango, Zimbabwe midfielder Khama Billiat and Burundi striker Fiston Abdul Razak.
Sundowns were paired with debutants Chicken Inn of Zimbabwe in a preliminary tie and experienced African campaigners AC Leopards from Congo Brazzaville await the winners.
Whoever survives are likely to meet 2014 Champions League runners-up V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a round-of-16 showdown.
Enyimba, the 2003 and 2004 Champions League winners, confront African newcomers Vipers of Uganda in a preliminary-round highlight.
The club from south-east city Aba should keep a close watch on Farouk Miya, an 18-year-old midfielder with a fondness for goals and occasional captain of Uganda.
If Enyimba progress, they would face what appears a less difficult task against Lioli of Lesotho or Vital’O of Burundi, but highly decorated Etoile Sahel of Tunisia loom as round-of-16 opponents.
Etoile lifted the Confederation Cup last month, raising to nine their number of African successes, and the Tunisian club are the only ones to have won all five CAF competitions.
Warri should eliminate Sporting Praia Cruz of Sao Tome e Principe, but 2015 Champions League semi-finalists Al Merrikh and 2014 winners Entente Setif of Algeria are possible rivals for a group place.
The first opponents for title-holders TP Mazembe of DR Congo will be Saint George of Ethiopia or Saint Michel United of the Seychelles.
Preliminary round first legs are scheduled for February 12-14 with the return matches two weekends later.
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