Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates have been given a tough path to the 2012 CAF Champions League group stages after the competition fixtures were released on Saturday.
Having been drawn against Angolan side Recreativo de Libolo in the preliminary round, Pirates will then need to get past Nigerian runners-up Sunshine Stars in the first round proper.
If they overcome those two hurdles then they will meet either Mali runners-up Djoliba, or the winner of the preliminary round tie between Uganda Revenue Authority and the Lesotho Correctional Services.
The Buccaneers will be favourites to advance past Recreativo in the preliminary round, but should be wary of the banana-skin potential of the side that won the Angolan championship last year.
The pairing with Sunshine Stars after that is almost a worst-case scenario for the Buccaneers, given that South African sides have traditionally struggled against Nigerian opposition.
Their reward for getting past those two would be a likely meeting with Djoliba from the Mali capital of Bamako, who along with Stade Malien are the biggest teams in the country. It will be another testing away day for Julio Leal’s men.
The preliminary round fixtures, which will see Pirates home in the first leg, are to be played on the weekend of February 17-19 (first leg) and March 2-4 (second leg).
The first round proper matches will take place on the weekends of March 23-25 and April 6-8, while the second round games are to be played on the weekends of April 27-29 and May 11-13.