Who will win the African Champions League?
Abdul Musa: Esperance de Tunis: Just won 26th league title in Tunisia, most complete side lead by the magnificent Ruud Krol, most impressive/consistent side in the preliminaries this year, no apparent weaknesses for me.
Oluwada Lotfi: I fancy one of the Tunisian giants, ES Tunis or CS Sfaxien, sides which have impressed me the most so far. Both play great football in their very own style and they’re very experienced.
Alex Queiros: TP Mazembe. They’ve done it before and they have the squad to win it again but they’ll have to be on the top of their game.
Maher Mezahi: I like CS Sfax as my darkhorses to win this tournament. The nucleus of Ndong, Sassi, Maaloul, Ben Youssef know one another, and are ready to make the next step in this competition.
Salim Masoud Said: I’ll have to go with Esperance. Their CL history seems characterised by painful defeats, but they’re the most complete side in the competition. If not, then TP Mazembe.
Which team will flatter to deceive?
AM: Al Hilal – 6 semi final appearances in the last 8 years in CAF Competitions, always seem to lose balance in the final rounds of the competition, perform well in the group stage but cant win a semi final, hoping they have finally learnt from their mistakes this year.
OL: I don’t really know to be honest because, in my opinion, most of the teams except the two Tunisian teams are at the same level.
AQ: Zamalek. They’re constant candidates, but they always fall short. I’m also not very confident of Mido’s coaching capabilities. Sorry Oluwada.
MM: The Algerian Football Federation are not moving domestic fixtures to accommodate their clubs. As a result, ES Setif might crash out early.
SMS: In terms of failing to win it, TP Mazembe. They lack balance and structure when they’re playing away from home.
The surprise package
AM: No doubt Ahly Benghazi, beating the champions Al Ahly of Egypt home and away in the last 16 of the competition definitely one of the biggest achievements in Libyan Club football. Drawn into a really tough group, not favourites but they can definitely pose a threat to group favourites CS Sfaxien and Esperance.
OL: I fancy Ahly Benghazi although they’re a bit unexperienced but leaded by the mastermind Tarek Ashri .
MM: Ahly Benghazi. Players like Ahmed Zuway, Ahmed Eid, and Tarek Al Achry have the talent and know-how to surprise. However, they will be playing their home matches in Sudan; a clear disadvantage.
AQ: Al-Ahly Benghazi. Very few teams manage to beat Al-Ahly twice and, even though they’re in the toughest group, they have a very good chance of getting out of it.
SMS: Ahly Benghazi. If you’ve toppled Al Ahly, what else is there to fear in Africa?
AM: Haythem Jouini of Esperance. Top scorer at the moment and seeing as I have them favourites, i can see him carrying his form into the group phase and beyond. Superb movement and great finisher, he and N’Djeng can terrorise any back four.
OL: Duduza Sadomba or Haitham Jwini
AQ: Mbwana Ali Samatta, Edward Sadomba or Haythem Jouini. The latter is already the top scorer of the competition, but Samatta and Sadomba have the big game experience and the capability to shine.
MM: Mbwana Samatta. Has proven to be a handful in the qualification rounds and will trouble teams with his movement and power.
SMS: Mbwana Samatta
Three players to watch
Yunus Sentamu (AS Vita) – 19 year old Ugandan who moved to AS Vita just last month on a 4 year deal, impressed at CHAN with Uganda, definitely a player who will improve their chances of getting out of the group.
Youssef Ibrahim “Obama” (Zamalek) – Promoted by Head Coach Ahmed Hossam “Mido” to the first team only months ago, 18 year old “Obama” is only getting better, starting to feature more in the league and I’m sure Mido will throw him into a couple CAF CL games where he can gain some continental experience.
And of course I have to include my main man Fakhreddine Ben Youssef of CS Sfaxien, scored in every preliminary round game this year, terrorising defence after defence. This guy is a problem!
OL: I’ll take two safe bets and a crazy one: TP Mazembe marvel Mbwana Ali Samatta, CS Sfaxien gingerboy Fakhreddine Ben and AS Vita Club striker Firmin Mubele
AQ: Ndombe Mubele, Gladson Awako and Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. All 3 players can score, make others score and all are under 23-years-old. You’ll be hearing lot from these guys in a few years.
MM: The diminutive El Hadi Belameiri for the magic he’s hitherto provided Setif. Ferjani Sassi for the aesthetic and graceful playing style. Robert Kidiaba for his bum-boucing.
SMS: Didier Ibrahima Ndong, Gladson Awako and Robert Kidiaba for the famous celebration and over-dramatic castigations of the TP Mazembe defence when they give chances to the opposition.
Which match are you looking forward to watching?
AM: Group A- Al Hilal – Zamalek in Omdurman on the 22nd August, last game in the group stage and ill be in Sudan to attend! Could also be a potential decider to who advances with favourites for the group TP Mazembe.
OL: All of them but I’ll follow Hilal Omdurman games with close attention, they’re back in the CAF CL after missing 2 editions! Always a joy to watch a home game in the cauldron of Omdurman!
AQ: Despite the latest violence, both Congo derbies are great to watch. Also very curious to see the Tunisia derby and Al-Hilal v TP Mazembe.
MM: AS Vita Club vs. TP Mazembe. These two recently clashed for the DRC league championship. It was a cracking match, looking forward to a two-leg series now.
SMS: There are a lot of mouth-watering ties, like the Rudi Krol Klasico (Esperance v CS Sfaxien), but I’m immensely looking forward to both legs of TP Mazembe v Al Hilal. Atmosphere should be electric in both games.