Holders Ahly, Sundowns renew CAF Champions League rivalry

Al Ahly of Egypt coach Pitso Mosimane reacts during the CAF Super Cup match against Raja Casablanca of Morocco in Qatar on December 22.

Al Ahly of Egypt coach Pitso Mosimane reacts during the CAF Super Cup match against Raja Casablanca of Morocco in Qatar on December 22. Creator: KARIM JAAFAR

Title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa will meet in the CAF Champions League for the fourth consecutive season after the groups draw was made in Cairo on Tuesday.

Record 10-time champions Ahly and one-time winners Sundowns were placed in Group A with Sudanese clubs Al Hilal and Al Merrikh.

South Africa-born Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane made the draw under the supervision of a Confederation of African Football official and appeared happy at the prospect of facing his former club Sundowns.

Mosimane masterminded a sensational 5-1 quarter-final triumph by Sundowns over Ahly in 2019, but could not prevent the Cairo Red Devils gaining revenge the following season with a 3-1 overall victory.

The coach was in the Ahly dugout when the teams were drawn together at the last-eight stage for a third straight season and once again the Egyptians advanced 3-1 on aggregate.

Altogether, the teams have met 10 times in the elite African club competition with Ahly winning all five matches in Egypt and drawing four and losing one in South Africa. 

"Ahly have eliminated Sundowns in the last two seasons and let us see what happens next time," was the cautious comment of Mosimane after the draw.

The Egyptian outfit are hoping to become the first club to win the competition three consecutive times after defeating Zamalek of Egypt and Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa in the previous two finals.

Ahly and TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo have failed twice and Enyimba of Nigeria and Esperance of Tunisia once in treble bids after winning back-to-back Champions League titles.

Esperance were drawn with fellow Tunisian side Etoile Sahel in Group C, which is completed by Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria and surprise qualifiers Jwaneng Galaxy of Botswana.

Casablanca clubs Raja and Wydad, who have won the competition five times between them, Esperance and Zamalek could pose the greatest threats to Ahly.

Wydad and five-time champions Zamalek are in Group D and should advance to the quarter-finals at the expense of Angolan sides Petro Atletico and Sagrada  Esperanca. 

Raja, who took Ahly to penalties before losing a CAF Super Cup match last week, face regular campaigners Horoya of Guinea and Entente Setif of Algeria and newcomers AmaZulu of South Africa in Group B. 

"Watch out for AmaZulu -- they can beat anyone on their day," said Mosimane about the Durban club who shocked Mazembe in a qualifier.

Matchday 1 is scheduled for February 11 and 12, the first weekend after the conclusion of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.  

Draw

Group A: Al Ahly (EGY, holders), Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA), Al Hilal, Al Merrikh (both SUD)

Group B: Raja Casablanca (MAR), Horoya (GUI), Entente Setif (ALG), AmaZulu (RSA)

Group C: Esperance, Etoile Sahel (both TUN), Chabab Belouizdad (ALG), Jwaneng Galaxy (BOT)

Group D: Wydad Casablanca (MAR), Zamalek (EGY), Petro Atletico, Sagrada Esperanca (both ANG)

Group winners and runners-up qualify for quarter-finals

Matchdays: Feb 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Mar 11-12, 18-19, Apr 1-2

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