NORTH-SOUTH SHOW­DOWNS

African Independent - - SPORT -

It will be north ver­sus south in the Caf Cham­pi­ons League knock­out phase with a record $2.5 mil­lion - $1 mil­lion more than last year - go­ing to the win­ners. Ti­tle-hold­ers Mamelodi Sun­downs of South Africa and sur­prise qual­i­fiers Fer­roviario Beira of Mozam­bique carry the hopes of the south.

They face a pow­er­ful six-club chal­lenge from the north, in­clud­ing for­mer cham­pi­ons Esper­ance and Etoile Sa­hel of Tu­nisia, Al Ahly of Egypt and Wy­dad Casablanca of Morocco.

The two-leg quar­ter-fi­nals are set for suc­ces­sive week­ends in mid-Septem­ber and here MOTHATI MOTAUNG of­fers some early clues as to the likely out­comes. have used Tu­nisia for “home” fix­tures, but are likely to host Etoile in an­other coun­try, pos­si­bly Egypt. Key play­ers: Muaid El­lafi (Ahly Tripoli) and Diogo Acosta (Etoile) This clash be­tween two club giants from the north is a “fi­nal” be­ing staged two rounds ear­lier.

The last time they clashed was in the 2012 ti­tle de­cider, sur­pris­ingly won by Ahly af­ter they were held at home in the first leg of the fi­nal.

Esper­ance are prob­a­bly mar­ginal favourites at this stage, but if you fancy a flut­ter, hedge your bets by putting some money on both the “Blood and Gold” and the “Cairo Red Devils”. Key play­ers: Taha Yas­sine Khenissi (Esper­ance) and Ab­dal­lah El Said (Ahly) foot­ball over gov­ern­ment in­ter­fer­ence.

Beira should be com­pet­i­tive at home on a sub­stan­dard pitch they are fa­mil­iar with against op­po­nents who lost away to mod­est CAPS United of Zim­babwe dur­ing the group stage.

Run­ners-up two sea­sons ago, USM are a for­mi­da­ble force at home, how­ever, where their re­cent vic­tims in­cluded Za­malek and Al Ahly Tripoli. Key play­ers: Manuel “Man­inho” Fer­nan­des (Fer­roviario) and Ous­sama Dar­falou (USM) Sun­downs made the last eight de­spite woe­ful home form, tak­ing just two points from a pos­si­ble nine in three group matches. They made up by ac­cu­mu­lat­ing seven on the road.

At­teridgeville needs to be­come a fortress again, as was the case in the 2016 fi­nal when five-time cham­pi­ons Za­malek were buried 3-0 be­fore a huge crowd.

Wy­dad have suf­fered a dou­ble blow with reg­u­lar scor­ers Fabrice On­dama from Congo Braz­zav­ille and Wil­liam Je­bor from Liberia leav­ing the club. Key play­ers: Hlom­pho Kekana (Sun­downs) and Achraf Ben­charki (Wy­dad)

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