Johannesburg (AFP) – Rehired Zamalek coach Patrice Carteron hopes to mastermind an amazing escape by the Egyptian team this weekend and lead them into the CAF Champions League quarter-finals.
The Frenchman last month inherited a team on the verge of elimination, but a victory at Mouloudia Alger of Algeria has offered hope of survival in the marquee African club competition.
If Zamalek win at home against Senegalese side Teungueth and Mouloudia lose away to Group D leaders Esperance of Tunisia, the Cairo outfit will squeeze into the knockout stage on head-to-head records.
Here, AFP Sport puts the spotlight on the final round of group matches with five clubs already through to the quarter-finals, six chasing three places, and five eliminated.
Back at Zamalek for a second spell in charge after working in Saudi Arabia, Carteron summed up the recovery of Zamalek in two words: “Fighting spirit.”
“We wanted the points more than Mouloudia did,” he told reporters, recalling the match last weekend where the Algerians needed only a draw to reach the knockout stage and eliminate Zamalek.
“Teungueth will be no pushover, but we will fight until the final whistle for a victory and hope the result in Tunisia favours us.”
Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria hold a two-point advantage over Al Hilal of Sudan in the race to finish second, and both finish with away matches against former Champions League title-holders.
Belouizdad face runaway leaders Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa in Pretoria while Hilal visit Lubumbashi to confront TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, last in the table and a team in transition.
Amir Sayoud is the joint leading scorer in the Champions League this season with six goals and could trouble Sundowns while Hilal hope Mohamed Abdelrahman can rediscover his predatory instincts.
Horoya of Guinea and Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa square off on the outskirts of Conakry to decide which club accompanies Wydad Casablanca of Morocco to the next stage.
A win for either club will qualify them, a goalless draw will take Horoya through, and a score draw will give Chiefs second place on head-to-head records.
A low-scoring clash seems likely given that Horoya have scored only five goals in seven Champions League matches while Chiefs have kept eight clean sheets in nine outings.
This is the only section that has been decided with Simba of Tanzania the surprise winners and defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt guaranteed second place.
They clash in Cairo with Ahly seeking revenge for a 1-0 loss in Dar es Salaam, where in-form Mozambican Luis Miquissone was the match-winner.
“We want to prove our win in Tanzania was no fluke. We have what it takes to defeat Ahly again,” was the upbeat message from Simba official Haji Manara.