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Champions League test for Mazembe

BBC Sport - May 6, 2011
TP Mazembe

DR Congo's African champions TP Mazembe face the first serious examination of their Champions League hat-trick dream this weekend in a must-win clash.

The 'Crows' must use home advantage to overcome a 1-0 loss at Wydad Casablanca of Morocco if they are to reach the last eight, and the league phase, of the competition.

After losing the Club World Cup final against Italy's Inter Milan last December, Mazembe players and officials vowed to conquer Africa again and so return to the world championship.

Mazembe began the challenge for a third consecutive African title with home and away victories over Simba of Tanzania before falling two weeks ago in the Moroccan commercial capital.

Wydad's defence has proved strong on its travels this season, conceding just once to Aduana Stars in Ghana while keeping a clean sheet against Kano Pillars 0-0 in Nigeria.

Some consider record six-time champions Al Ahly as Mazembe's biggest threat and a goalless draw in Zambia against Zesco Unitedsuggests the Egyptians will make it through.

Ahly coach Manuel Jose has confessed that many of his stars, like midfield playmaker Mohamed Aboutreika, are growing old and the team requires a transfusion of young blood.

Runners-up last year, Tunisians Esperance appear 'bankers' after walloping Senegal's Diaraf 5-0 at home while compatriots Club Africain must overcome a 1-0 deficit when Al Hilal of Sudan visit Tunis.

The 1976 African champions Mouloudia Alger of Algeria also look set to make the mini-league phase having snatched a stoppage-time equaliser in Angola to draw 1-1 with InterClube.

Fellow Algerians Entente Setif tackle 2008 runners-up Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon in a first leg delayed by two weeks because four of Cameroon's Under-20 squad came from the northern club.

The Indomitable Cubs finished second to winners Nigeria at the African Youth Championship, which ended last Sunday.

Al Ittihad and Asec Mimosas have had to surrender home fixtures because of the security situation in Libya and Ivory Coast.

Their opponents, Enyimba of Nigeria and Raja Casablanca of Morocco respectively, should hold a distinct advantage in what are now one-legged ties.

The winners of these ties qualify for the group stage of the Champions League, while the runners-up drop into the Confederation Cup competition.

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