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CAF Confederation Cup

Caf Confederation Cup preview: Holders Raja face Otoho in decider, Zamalek, Etoile and Nkana make final push for last eight berth

07:16 GMT 17/03/2019
Mahmoud Benhalib and Raja Casablanca celebrate
Raja, Otoho and Hassania Agadir fight for Group A's last qualification spot, while Nkana look to upset Al Hilal away from home

Defending champions Raja Casablanca face a monumental task of reaching the Caf Confederation Cup quarter-finals when they clash with AS Otoho away in Owando on Sunday.

The only Group A team without a win, Raja are surprisingly still in contention for a last eight place.

They arrive in Congo with just four points but need nothing but a victory to proceed.

Despite his side struggling, Raja forward Mouhssine Lajour is amongst the tournament’s top-scorers and will want to continue with his fine form and hand Otoho their first home defeat at this stage.

Just a point separates Raja and second-placed Otoho who forced a 0-0 draw when they visited the Moroccan giants in the reverse fixture.

Making the final matchday in this group even more intriguing is that only one spot is up for grabs as leaders RSB Berkane have already qualified to the next stage.

This leaves third-positioned Hassania Agadir as the other team vying for a quarter-final berth.

Hassania Agadir have the same number of points (five) as Otoho but are undone by an inferior head-to-head record as they host Berkane in an all Moroccan affair.

Just like Raja and Otoho, Hassania Agadir needs a victory to secure a place in the next round.

Elsewhere in Group B, just one place is up for the taking.

2015 champions Etoile du Sahel are keen to elbow out Burkinabe visitors Salitas at the Stade Olympique de Sousse.

Etoile needs just a point to confirm a quarter-final berth and for them not to worry about the result between the other contending side Enugu Rangers, who host already-qualified CS Sfaxien.

But Etoile faces a Salitas side needing victory to qualify.

What could be worrisome for Etoile coach Roger Lemerre is that his forwards appear goal-shy, with defender Sadam Ben Aziza becoming an unlikely source of goals for Etoile in this campaign with his two strikes together with midfielder Iheb Msakni.

In Group C, leaders Nkana and Al Hilal clash in a top-two battle in Omdurman as both sides feel the heat from third-placed Asante Kotoko, who visit already-eliminated Zesco United.

Nkana’s slim lead at the top leaves them needing just a point away at the Sudanese giants.

But the Zambian’s record of two defeats on the road has left coach Beston Chambeshi a concerned man.

“Yes, it has been a worry but we are trying our level best to make sure we mend where we are not doing well but we are ready,” Chambeshi was quoted as saying by Lusaka Times.

“But if you look at our performances away from home, it is only that we have been conceding but if you look at the whole picture, the team is there and it can deliver and pick points away from home. We are sure we have worked on these lapses and the boys are ready to perform,” he added.

Victory is crucial for Al Hilal, who are just a point below Nkana. 

Meanwhile, Zamalek are out to continue with their resurgence as they visit NA Hussein Dey in Algiers for a Group D encounter.

Just a point is enough to see Zamalek through to the quarter-finals after the Egyptians covered ground in their last two games following a winless run in their three previous group games.

But Zamalek’s Swiss coach Christian Gross wants a victory to finish as group leaders.

“It's a difficult and decisive match and we are eyeing nothing but a victory,” Gross was quoted as saying by  Al Ahram

“We will play on a good pitch and this will allow us to play our game. We must take our chances. We are playing against a very good team who are also seeking to qualify,” he explained.

Zamalek welcome back Moroccan striker Khalid Boutaib who missed the 4-0 win over Gor Mahia due to him attending a family bereavement.

Sitting in third-place just a point behind Zamalek, NA Hussein would fancy their chances of advancing to the last eight from this group where all four teams are still in contention.