Caf Confederation Cup preview: Nkana out to preserve glittering history against Al Hilal, Zamalek search for lost soul

Nkana FC.
Nkana search for first Group C win against Al Hilal, the Moroccan derby between Berkane and Hassania explodes as Etoile seek recovery against Salitas

Nkana FC’s unheralded 56-match unbeaten home run in Caf competitions has been brought to the fore as they prepare to host Sudanese giants Al Hilal in Kitwe on Wednesday.

Although they have no Caf title to show for all their industry at home, the Zambian giants have been invincible in their backyard where they have notched up 40 victories and 16 draws.

That they are coming from a defeat to Zambian rivals Zesco United in their Group C opening match away in Ndola has been relegated to a nonentity by the astonishing record unbeaten record at home.

While they host perennial Caf inter-club competitions contestants Al Hilal who beat Ghanaian giants Asante Kotoko in Omdurman almost two weeks ago, Nkana carry a record that could be scary to the Sudanese heavyweights.

Even Nkana coach Beston Chambeshi is not reading much into their defeat to Zesco and has his eyes focused on advancing past the group phase of this tournament.

“Our goal remains unchanged - we want to progress beyond the group stage. One loss does not deter us,” Chambeshi told AFP.

Nkana face an Al Hilal side that was sweating for the fitness of Congolese striker Odris Mbombo and captain Abdelateef Saeed who were struggling with injuries.

Interestingly, Mbombo is the reigning Zambia Player of the Year and was in the books of Nkana until last October when he joined Al Hilal.

Elsewhere in Group A, RSB Berkane and Hassania Agadir clash in a Moroccan derby in this pool that has no winner so far after draws on Matchday One.

Berkane are looking for the first set of points after being held 1-1 away at AS Otoho.

Hassania Agadir on the other hand also held reigning champions Raja Casablanca 1-1 at home.

It is the second straight group match for Hassania to meet fellow Moroccan opponents and this time around they will be in away territory against a Berkane side that reached the quarter-finals of this tournament last season.

Meanwhile, Raja Casablanca will be hosting Congolese side AS Otoho in this battle for three points in this group.

The defending champions would be facing a stubborn Otoho that is making their debut at this stage of this competition.

After missing the match against Hassania, Raja’s chief forward Mahmoud Benhalib who top scored in this competition last season with 12 goals is expected to be back for the Moroccan giants.

Mouhssine Iajour who scored Raja’s goal against Hassania is also another real threat for Otoho.

In Group D, Zamalek welcome Algerian side NA Hussein Dey at Borg El Arab Stadium.

The Egyptians giants tarted their group campaign on the backfoot with a 4-2 loss to Kenyan giants Gor Mahia.

“I won’t blame any players for the defeat (against Gor Mahia). We win as a team, we lose as a team. Having to play too many games in a short time forces me to rest some key players sometimes,” Zamalek’s Swiss coach Christian Gross told Cafonline.

“We need ten points to guarantee our place in the quarter finals. There are still five games to be played, starting this Wednesday and our focus is just to win every game.”

It might not be an easy outing for Zamalek who come up against a NA Hussein Dey side that beat Petro Atletico 2-1 in their opening group match a home.

But perhaps, Zamalek would want to ride on home advantage where they are usually invincible.

In Ouagadougou, 2015 champions Etoile du Sahel find themselves in an unfamiliar position to pick themselves up after a false start in their last match as they face Salitas.

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The Tunisian giants lost their Group B opener 1-0 at home against rivals CS Sfaxien and are battling for redemption.

Now they are on the road in Burkina Faso against an equally wounded Salitas that lost 2-0 away at Enugu Rangers in their last match.

Being a battle of teams that started their group campaign with losses, the clash in Ouagadougou promises to be an interesting affair.