HomeSportIt’s back to the African safari for champions

It’s back to the African safari for champions

AFRICAN Champions League holders TP Mazembe continue the defence of their title when they play Dynamos in their opening Group A encounter on Sunday.

Mazembe have been preparing for the match in neighbouring Zambia, where they played a number of local sides in friendlies, and their coach, Diego Garzitto, says they are ready for what will be a stern examination in Harare.

“The outing to Zambia has been a success and the teams we played against on the tour were competitive. For me, I can say that my team had a good outing,” Garzitto said.

Meanwhile, Dynamos coach Elvis Chiweshe (pictured left) says his side are relishing the challenge of facing the defending champions, having been semi-finalists themselves in 2008.

“We respect TP but we will play an open game,” Chiweshe told Cafonline. “We will play an open game, it is not going to be easy but we are positive and of course we do respect them.
“We respect them because they are a big team but we will try and get the three points.”

Nigerian side Heartland, who were runners-up to Mazembe last season, begin their Group B campaign on Sunday with a home tie against Egyptian giants Al Ahly, who are the most successful club in the tournament’s history with six triumphs, the last one in 2008.

Ahly will be among the favourites for the title this season but will not relish a tough away trip to Owerri, especially as they were ousted from last season’s competition by another Nigerian side, Kano Pillars.

They too have been in a training camp ahead of the fixture and coach Hossam Al-Badri says his squad, which includes the newly-acquired star of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations finals, Mohamed Nagy, are in top shape.

“I’m satisfied with the team’s form during the training camp, which was very useful,” Al Badari said. “The players were tactically disciplined, produced fine displays and appeared to be in good shape.”

Ahly’s compatriots Ismaili kick-off Group B with a home match today against Algerian side JS Kabylie, a resumption of hostilities between the two nations following their acrimonious 2010 World Cup qualification campaign.

The Algerians can expect a hot reception in Ismaili, who will be favourites to secure all three points at home, but will be wary of still having to travel for the away leg late in the competition.

The final match of the weekend in Group A sees last year’s beaten CAF Confederation Cup finalists, Entente Sportive de Sétif from Algeria host Tunisia’s Esperance on Saturday in what should be a fascinating battle. ­— Cafonline.

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