Absa Premiership

CAF obstacles await Amakhosi

2014-12-23 09:42
Stuart Baxter (file, Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Runaway South African Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs were handed a difficult route on Monday if they want to be equally successful in the CAF Champions League.

The 2015 qualifying rounds draw made in Cairo paired the Soweto club with Batwanans Township Rollers in a preliminary two-leg tie they should win with several goals to spare.

But assuming Chiefs clear the first obstacle in the premier annual African club football competition, Moroccans Raja Casablanca and title-holders Algerians Entente Setif loom large on the horizon.

Three-time CAF Champions League winners Raja will be favoured to defeat Congolese Diables Noirs in another preliminary match-up, with the first legs scheduled for mid-February.

Should the Amakhosi survive 2013 Club World Cup runners-up Raja, they are likely to tackle two-time African champions Setif for a place in the lucrative group stage.

Setif, who edged V Club from the Democratic Republic of Congo on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate deadlock to win the 2014 final, have a preliminary bye.

The Algerians, a disappointing fifth at the Club World Cup in Morocco last week, confront Gambians Real Banjul or Liberians Barrack Young Controllers in a last-32 tie.

Chiefs, who hold a 15-point Premiership lead with 12 rounds left, failed to reach the group stage in three previous attempts, losing narrowly to V Club this year.

Mamelodi Sundowns, the other South African challengers, were equally unlucky in the draw as four-time CAF champions Congolese TP Mazembe await if the Pretoria club overcome Seychellois Saint Michel United.

The top 12 ranked countries are allowed two entries and South Africa are back among the elite after a four-year absence thanks to Orlando Pirates finishing 2013 Champions League runners-up.

Nigerian teams Kano Pillars and two-time Champions League winners Enyimba got favourable preliminary pairings as they seek to atone for poor showings this year.

Kano begin with an away game against South Sudanese Al-Malakia while Enyimba, the only Nigerian club to win the competition, host Beninese Buffles Borgou in the first leg.

Pillars fell to V Club in a 2014 preliminary match-up and Enyimba suffered a shock last-32 exit against Malians Real Bamako.

The elevation of South Africa to two-entrant status meant Ghana dropped out of the top 12, leaving two-time African champions Asante Kotoko as the lone flag-bearer.

Kotoko face Sierra Leoneans East End Lions and will wear the tag of favourites anxiously having being stunned by Young Controllers at the same stage this year.

Kenyans Gor Mahia, victims of an eight-goal last-32 thrashing from Tunisians Esperance this season, were paired with Malagasy outfit CNaPS Sport, and Congolese AC Leopards await the winners.

Having broken the Young Africans-Simba title dominance in Tanzania, ice cream company club Azam face a tough Champions League baptism against vastly experienced CAF campaigners Sudanese El-Merrikh.

Egyptians Al-Ahly, winners of a record 19 CAF titles after lifting the 2014 Confederation Cup, are among seven clubs who received Champions League preliminary-round byes.     

Powerful Confederation Cup contenders V Club, Tunisians Club Africain and Etoile Sahel and Egyptians Zamalek were among nine sides to get byes in the second-tier competition.

The 2015 CAF Champions League qualifying draws were released in Cairo on Monday:

Preliminary round

Mbabane Swallows (SWZ) v Zesco Utd (ZAM)
Sewe Sport (CIV) v Kaloum (GUI)
USM Alger (ALG) v Foullah Edifice (CHA)
Pikine (SEN) v Etoile Filante (BUR)
Al-Hilal (SUD) v KMKM (ZAN)
Fomboni Moheil (COM) v Big Bullets (MAW)
Recreativo Libolo (ANG) v Sanga Balende (COD)
KCCA (UGA) v Cosmos Bafia (CMR)
Azam (TAN) v El-Merrikh (SUD)
LLB Academic (BDI) v Kabuscorp (ANG)
Ela Nguema (GEQ) v Semassi Sokode (TOG)
El-Eulma (ALG) v St George (ETH)
East End Lions (SLE) v Asante Kotoko (GHA)
Enyimba (NGR) v Buffles Borgou (BEN)
Al-Ahly Tripoli (LBA) v Smouha (EGY)
Gor Mahia (KEN) v CNaPS Sport (MAD)
Liga Muculmana (MOZ) v APR (RWA)
CO Bamako (MLI) v Moghreb Tetouan (MAR)
Al-Malakia (SSD) v Kano Pillars (NGR)
Real Banjul (GAM) v Barrack Young Controllers (LBR)
Kaizer Chiefs (RSA) v Township Rollers (BOT)
Raja Casablanca (MAR) v Diables Noirs (CGO)
St Michel Utd (SEY) v Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA)
Mangasport (GAB) v Bantu (LES)
Stade Malien (MLI) v AS GNN (NIG)

First leg: February 13-15, second leg: February 27-March 1

Last 32

Swallows or Zesco v Sewe or Kaloum
USM or Foullah v Pikine or Etoile
Hilal or KMKM v Fomboni or Bullets
Coton Sport (CMR) v Libolo or Balende
KCCA or Cosmos v Esperance (TUN)
Azam or Merrikh v Academic or Kabuscorp
Nguema or Semassi v CS Sfaxien (TUN)
Eulma or St George v Lions or Kotoko
Enyimba or Buffles v Tripoli or Smouha
Gor or CNaPS v AC Leopards (CGO)
Muculmana or APR v Al-Ahly (EGY)
Bamako or Tetouan v Malakia or Kano
Banjul or Controllers v Entente Setif (ALG, holders)
Chiefs or Rollers v Raja or Diables
Michel or Sundowns v TP Mazembe (COD)
Mangasport or Bantu v Malien or GNN

First leg: March 13-15, second leg: April 3-5

Last 16

USM, Foullah, Pikine or Etoile v Swallows, Zesco, Sewe or Kaloum
Coton, Libolo or Balende v Hilal, KMKM, Fomboni or Bullets
Azam, Merrikh, Academic or Kabuscorp v KCCA, Cosmos or Esperance
Eulma, St George, Lions or Kotoko v Nguema, Semassi or Sfaxien
Gor, CNaPS or Leopards v Enyimba, Buffles, Tripoli or Smouha
Bamako, Tetouan, Malakia or Kano v Muculmana, APR or Ahly
Chiefs, Rollers, Raja or Diables v Banjul, Controllers or Setif
Mangasport, Bantu, Malien or GNN v Michel, Sundowns or Mazembe

First leg: April 17-19, second leg: May 1-3

Note: Last 16 winners qualify for group stage and Last 16 losers drop to CAF Confederation Cup

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