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CAF Champions League

Caf Champions League Preview: TP Mazembe face Zesco challenge, FC Platinum on the brink of history

13:05 GMT 21/12/2018
Super Sports vs Tp Mazembe
The return legs of the Caf Champions League first round resume this weekend, with places in the group stages at stake

TP Mazembe captain Djos Issama Mpeko has refused to read much into the punishing road trip from Lumbumbashi to Ndola for Saturday's Caf Champions League second-leg against Zesco United.

The five-time African champions spent five hours on the road traveling to Zambia where they seek to defend the 1-0 lead from the first-leg.

While conceding that the journey from Lumbumbashi was taxing, Mpeko said they would do anything to defy the long travel in their search of a spot in group stages.

"It's a tiring trip, that's for sure," Mpeko told TP Mazembe website.

"But to play for a place in the group stage of the Champions League, as TP Mazembe we would be ready to even spend the whole day traveling just to qualify." 

Zambia internationals Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala, and Kabaso Chongo will be facing Zesco compatriots.

Kalaba and Sinkala arrived in Ndola having been rested for Tuesday's 3-0 league win over AS Dragons.

"There is still at stake for a place in the group stage of the Champions League," Kalaba told TP Mazembe website

"TP Mazembe has to qualify because a big club like Mazembe has to play in the group stages every year. We are aware of this phase which is very important. We have the means to qualify, provided we are inspired by the good form in our recent league matches.

"I do not see why and how this qualification would elude us. With all due respect for Zesco United, it's up to us to put all the ingredients. All matches in the league as in the African Cup are big meetings. Zesco United aim to reach the group phase as we do. It will be a kind of final on Saturday and we must make the difference mentally. It's about the motivation."

TP Mazembe will be without Malian forward Abdoulaye Sissoko, who was allowed to travel home for his wedding this weekend.

Elsewhere, Egyptian giants Al Ahly welcome back chief striker Walid Azarou and long-term absentee Tunisian defender Ali Maaloul ahead of the trip to Ethiopian champions Jimma Kenema.

Moroccan forward Azarou has served his two-match ban imposed on him by Caf for unsporting behaviour during last season's final against Esperance while Maaloul was out injured.

Also returning to the Al Ahly squad from injury is defender Ahmed Fathy and goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawy, who missed the first leg.

The Egyptian giants lead 2-0 from the reverse leg but will however miss the services of veteran winger Walid Soliman, who is nursing an ankle injury.

Al Ahly's compatriots, Ismaily also lead Cameroonian giants Cotonsport by the same scoreline from the first leg at home.

Ismaily new Marcedonian Cedomir Janevski will be on the bench for the first time ever in the Champions League after he watched the first leg from the stands following his appointment last week.

“I’ve been coaching for 28 years and I liked to have a new experience here,” Janevski was quoted as saying by Cafonline.

“Ismaily played well and we still have 90 minutes to give our best and reach the group stage."

While Janevski is excited about his job and the lead they enjoy on their trip to Cameroon, Cotonsport coach Bertin Ebwelle has warned about turning the tables against the Egyptians.

“We can win against Ismaily and qualify to the mini-league stage,” Ebwelle said.

“They are a good side with many young players. But we can win at home and overtake them to the next round. Let’s wait and see who will make it."

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean champions FC Platinum welcome back Warriors defender Kelvin Moyo and winger Rahman Kutsanzira who both missed the away leg in Congo Brazzaville against AS Otoho due to injury.

The platinum miners forced a 1-1 draw against the Congolese champions and are seeking to qualify for the Champions League group stages for the first time ever in their history.

Norman Mapeza, the FC Platinum coach, is, however, wary of an upset at home.

“It is not yet over, the first half was played in Congo and the second is here, we still need a result here if the game finishes at 0-0 we will qualify but that is not guaranteed they can get a goal in the dying minutes," Mapeza told The Herald.

“Everybody knows where we are standing now as a club, we are just 90 minutes away from achieving our objectives that are reaching the group stages of the Champions League, we just need to get the maximum support we need from everyone associated with this club."

The Otoho match could be the last for FC Platinum striker and 2018 Zimbabwe Soccer Star of the Year Rodwell Cinyangetere who will join his new club Baroka FC in January.

Elsewhere, Sudanese giants Al Hilal would be seeking to overturn the 3-1 deficit they suffered away at Club Africain.

They host the Tunisian side on Sunday hoping the away goal they grabbed in the first-leg could be crucial to saving them from exiting the tournament.