Caf Champions League Group D preview: Zesco, Agosto, Etoile and Swallows

Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel will be looking to break an 11-year CafCL jinx as they kick off their campaign against Primero de Agosto on Saturday

In 2007, the Tunisians were crowned African champions for the first and only time, having before endured the agony of losing the 2004 and 2005 finals.

But after reaching the semi-finals of Africa’s elite club competition last season, Etoile are keen to claim the prestigious title this year.

Group D which also contains Zambian champions and 2016 semi-finalists Zesco United and debutants Mbabane Swallows of Swaziland could prove tricky for Etoile.

However, for now they will have to worry about Primero de Agosto who impressively saw off Zimbabwe’s FC Platinum and South Africa's Wits University enroute to the group stages.

Agosto have fortressed their Estadio de 11 Novembro, where they are yet to lose a Champions League match this season, while Etoile succumbed to 1-0 defeat on the road at Plateau United of Nigeria in the first round, the return leg.

Receiving a bye in the preliminary round could have been a show of their pedigree but a less convincing 4-3 first round aggregate win over Nigerian champions Plateau United of Nigeria might leave Etoile's group opponents with the hope of an upset.

Etoile’s Algerian coach Kheireddine Madoui will touch down in the Angolan capital Luanda buoyed by some of his players who are keen to perform beyond his expectations as they bid for places in Tunisia’s Fifa World Cup squad.

Madoui’s worry however could be his team’s defence which shipped in three goals against Plateau United and will this time be faced by Agosto’s chief striker Bakulu Bitumba Jacques who has so far scored three times in the competition.

Elsewhere in Group D, Zambian champions Zesco United will be looking to establish themselves as serious continental football contenders when they host Swaziland’s Mbabane Swallows at Levy Mwanawas Stadium on Saturday.

George Lwandamina’s side have in the past two seasons enjoyed a fair run in Caf inter-club competitions. After being booted out of the Champions League semifinals two years ago by eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns, followed by last season’s agonising quarter-final exit from the Confederations Cup on away goals at the hands of SuperSport United, Zesco this term fancy their chances of even landing the biggest club football prize on the continent.

Also making them believe that they can go far in the competition is that they boast the experience of Zambian international players like veteran midfielder Kondwani Mtonga, John Chin’gandu, Misheck Chaila and Fackson Kapumbu as well as the Kenyan trio of David Owino, striker Jesse Were and Anthony Akumu.

In securing their passage to the group stages, Zesco lost 1-0 at home to Ivorian giants Asec Mimosas in the first leg of the first round before triumphing 2-1 in Abijan and sailed through on the away goals.

The home defeat has left Zesco captain and goalkeeper Jacob Banda cautious on home turf. “The game will be tough against Mbabane Swallows and we are at home.

We have to approach it with serious caution but we must fully utilise our home ground advantage,” Banda told Cafonline.

The Zambians could also equally be ruthless at home as they devastated Jeshi la Kulinda Uchumi of Zanzibar 7-0 at Levy Mwanawasa in the preliminary round with Ghanaian striker Zikiru Adams grabbing four goals.

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Swallows arrive in Ndola inspired by their 3-1 aggregate first round stunning of Zesco’s compatriots Zanaco, which included a 2-1 away win to book a maiden appearance in the group phase of the Champions League.

The Swazi champions also arrive at Ley Mwanawasa with 2015 memories of being booted out by Zesco at the preliminary stage of the Champions League 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-0 away defeat and a 1-1 stalemate in Mbabane.

With striker Felix Badenhorst having struck three times in four games so far in the competition, Swallows have a reliable striker who together with Tony Tsabedza can carry the day for them.