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Giants join chase for African Champions League places
Published in Daily News Egypt on 19 - 03 - 2010

LAGOS: Six-time winners Ahly as well as defending champions TP Mazembe are amongst the teams trying to qualify for the African Champions League group stage this weekend.
Mazembe, who last year clinched their third African Champions crown after a 49-year barren run, travel to take on Rwandan army team APR in Kigali, while Zimbabwe's Gunners host Ahly.
Last year, the dream of Ahly of Egypt to win their seventh Champions League trophy were dashed by debutants Nigeria's Kano Pillars in the third round.
The Cairo Red Devils have undergone major changes since then with Portuguese coach Manuel Jose departing for Angola to be replaced by long-time assistant, Hossam Al-Badri, while injuries have dogged top stars Mohamed Abou-Trika and Mohamed Barakat.
Ahly's opponents, Gunners of Zimbabwe beat minnows Mafunzo from Zanzibar home and away in the first round with Nolman Mloto getting on the score board in both games.
Mazembe defeated Nigeria's Heartland in last year's final and have retained the core of that team including skipper Tresor Mputu Mabi, who is expected to move to an overseas club in June, and midfielder Alain Kaluyituka Dioko, who was top scorer in last year's campaign with eight goals.
APR snatched a 1-0 win away at Recreativo de Libolo of Angola to qualify for this round on a 3-2 aggregate. They have been regular Champions League campaigners and parade several Rwanda internationals.
In Lusaka, home team Zanaco will favour their chances against Ivory Coast s Asec, who failed to reach the group stage of the annual competition last year.
The coach of the Zambian club, Wedson Nyirenda, said though he respects the high-profile Ivorian champions, he will be gunning for victory on Saturday.
We respect them, they are a big team, but we just have to win our game and then finish it off at their place, said Nyirenda, whose team advanced to this stage after they beat Uganda's Revenue Authority FC on 4-1 aggregate.
Tunisian champions Esperance only just avoided an upset at the hands of East End Lions of Sierra Leone thanks to a late winner by their Nigeria international striker Michael Eneramo in Tunis.
Just like the first leg match, scores were tied on 2-2 in the reverse fixture before Eneramo found target.
Africa Sports of Ivory Coast at home to Sudan's Al Hilal and Raja Casablanca from Morocco hosting Angolan champions Petro Atletico are two other ties that will draw a lot of interest this weekend.
Cash-strapped Africa Sports will be under pressure to get a result at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on Sunday against Al Hilal, lately one of the most consistent teams in this competition who lost in the semi-finals last year.
In Morocco, three-time champions Raja have experience in giant international goalkeeper Tarik El Jarmouni and youth in 18-year-old Malian midfielder Souleymane Demba, who was born in Zambia and made his Champions League debut against Fello Star of Guinea in Conakry last month.

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