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Mazembe and Ahly set for Champions League clash

BBC Sport - August 31, 2012
Tresor Mputu Mabi
Tresor Mputu Mabi
African midfield superstars Tresor Mputu and Mohamed Aboutrika come face to face this weekend when TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo host Al Ahly of Egypt in the African Champions League.

The clash in Lubumbashi pits Group B leaders Ahly against second-place Mazembe and both clubs could qualify for the semi-finals before the mid-September final group fixtures.

A draw will ensure Ahly top the final standings while Mazembe can secure a last-four place if they win and third-place Berekum Chelsea of Ghana fail to collect maximum points at Zamalek of Egypt.

Mputu, 26, and the 33-year-old Aboutrika both play in their home countries rather than in Europe and have each struck six goals in the 2012 Champions League.

Both are inspirational figures for club and country, both have helped Ahly and Mazembe lift the Champions League and compete at the Fifa Club World Cup, and both have been candidates for annual CAF individual awards.

They seem set to have a major influence on one of the mega fixtures of CAF club football with Ahly having won the Champions League a record six times and Mazembe third on the winners' list behind Zamalek with four titles.

Mazembe go into the game boosted by the availability of two Zambian defenders/midfielders that were nursing injuries - Stophira Sunzu is fit again after a hamstring problem and Nathan Sinkala has recovered from a nerve infection that affected his face and visibility.

Ahly, who last won the Champions League four years ago, have 10 points, Mazembe seven, Chelsea five and five-time African title holders Zamalek are pointless after four consecutive losses.

Zamalek did get some cheer this week with Egyptian authorities softening a security-related ban on spectators imposed last February by allowing a few thousand people to attend the Chelsea fixture at the Military Academy Stadium.

But the White Knights are likely to be without Benin star Razak Omotoyossi, who has been unhappy at a club struggling to pay players with no domestic football since 74 died in post-match Port Said rioting six months ago.

The striker has missed training for seven days and the suspension of Ahmed Gaafar leaves new Zamalek coach Jorvan Vieira from Brazil with only one recognised striker, Burkina Faso-born Abdoulaye Cisse.

Chelsea, meanwhile, boast the competition's leading scorer, Emmanuel Clottey, who has scored an impressive 12 goals, including two hat-tricks.

In Group A, defending champions Esperance of Tunisia and Sunshine Stars of Nigeria have secured semi-finals places after their pool was reduced to three clubs this week when Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia were disqualified over pitch invasions.

It means AS Chlef have no fixture this weekend.

Esperance and Sunshine have six points each in the revised standings ahead of a Rades showdown with the Tunisian Blood and Gold, when Esperance will aim to extend an 18-match unbeaten run spanning two seasons in the premier African club competition.

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