BY APESIN ADEMOLA
As the draw approaches for the 2018/19 CAF Champions League group stage, four countries may have two teams in each of the four sections. Teams from the same federation will not be separated at this stage of the competition and going forward.
DR Congo have the leading team TP Mazembe in Pot 1 as well as AS Vita Club in Pot 2, while Egypt parade record winners Al-Ahly in Pot 1 and Ismaily in Pot 4.
Current winners Espérance from Tunisia are in Pot 1, while their compatriots Club Africain are in Pot 2.
Algeria’s CS Constantine (Pot 3) and JS Saoura (Pot 4) complete the quartet of federations with higher number in the hat.
Six other countries have one club each to make up the 16-team group stage. These are Nigeria (Lobi Stars), Morocco (Wydad Casablanca), Guinea (Horoya), Côte d’Ivoire (ASEC Mimosas), Tanzania (Simba) and Zimbabwe (FC Platinum).
Each group will have at least two teams that have continental trophies decorating their shelves.
All the top seeds have lifted the CAF Champions League in its present and former formats at least two times – Al-Ahly (8 titles), TP Mazembe (5), Espérance (3) and Wydad Casablanca (2).
Pot 2 parade three one-time champions of the elite competitions – South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns, AS Vita Club (DR Congo) and Club Africain (Tunisia), while Guinea’s Horoya won the African Cup Winners Cup in 1978.
With two other former champions in Pot 3 – ASEC Mimosas (Côte d’Ivoire) and Orlando Pirates (South Africa) – and another in Pot 4 (Egypt’s Ismaily), the draw may pitch a caste of champions in the same group.
For Nigeria’s Lobi Stars playing in the competition for the second time, lining up against the “giants” in the continent is a prospect they might not like but have no choice over.
The group stage will have each team in the four groups playing six matches from January 11 to March 17 next year.
The top two sides in each group will qualify for the quarterfinals.
Draw will also be organised for the playoff phase of the CAF Confederation Cup in which Enugu Rangers represent Nigeria.
The teams drawn from the Champions League route will host the first leg against their opponents from the Confederation Cup section on the weekend of January 11 – 13, 2019 with the reversed fixtures a week later.
Tie winners will progress to the group stage of four teams each to be played from February 1 to March 17.
2018/19 CAF Champions League (Group stage draw):
Pot 1: TP Mazembe (DR Congo), Al-Ahly (Egypt), Wydad Casablanca (Morocco), Espérance (Tunisia)
Pot 2: Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa), AS Vita Club (DR Congo), Horoya (Guinea), Club Africain (Tunisia)
Pot 3: ASEC Mimosas (Côte d’Ivoire), Orlando Pirates (South Africa), Simba (Tanzania), CS Constantine (Algeria)
Pot 4: Ismaily (Egypt), Lobi Stars (Nigeria), FC Platinum (Zimbabwe), JS Saoura (Algeria)
2018/19 CAF Confederation Cup (Playoff draw):
Champions League route: ZESCO United (Zambia), Al-Hilal (Sudan), Coton Sport (Cameroon), Gor Mahia (Kenya), Stade Malien (Mali), Al-Ahly Benghazi (Libya), Nkana (Zambia), AS Otôho (Congo Republic), Jimma Aba Jifar (Ethiopia), Bantu FC (Lesotho), Al-Nasr (Libya), Ittihad Tanger (Morocco), African Stars FC (Namibia), ASC Diaraf (Senegal), Vipers (Uganda)
Confederation Cup route: Enugu Rangers (Nigeria), Zamalek (Egypt), Raja Casablanca (Morocco), KCCA (Uganda), CS Sfaxien (Tunisia), RS Berkane (Morocco), NA Hussein Dey (Algeria), Petro de Luanda (Angola), Salitas FC (Burkina Faso), New Star FC (Cameroon), Ashante Kotoko SC (Ghana), FC San Pédro (Côte d’Ivoire), Hassania Agadir (Morocco), Mukura Victory Sports (Rwanda), Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa)