CAF Champions League 2018 season is set for kickoff across the continent starting Friday at the preliminary round.
This will be the 54th edition of the annual Confederation of African Football (CAF) premium interclub tournament, and the 22nd edition under the current format.
59 teams from 47 member associations of CAF have confirmed participation.
12 highest ranked associations according to CAF’s 5-Year Ranking will field two teams each while the rest a team each.
The 12 are Egypt, Tunisia, DR Congo, Algeria, South Africa, Morocco, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Congo, Mali and Nigeria.
Five clubs from the group of 12 namely Al Ahly, Etoile du Sahel, TP Mazembe, Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Casablanca have been granted byes at the initial round and will starting competing at the 1st round.
Morocco’s Wydad are the defending champions having beaten record eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt in last year’s finals.
The club represented Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi but failed to register a win.
The 19-time Morocco’s Botola winners have since sacked their Champions League winning coach Hussein Amotta following a poor domestic run and replaced him with Tunisian Faouzi Benzarti.
The CAF CL will be entering the second season in its expended format whereby 16 teams qualify for the lucrative groups’ stage after the 1st round.
Before the last edition only eight teams made the money bracket – making it a club of a chosen few.
Clubs that fail to go past the 1st round join CAF Confederations Cup playoffs round.
Like in the past, the big clubs from mainly Northern, Southern and Central Africa are expected to proceed to the later stages of the competition; however, a few minnows have been known to pull surprises.
Improved competition is also expected especially at the preliminary level as the tournament continues to grow and clubs take it more seriously due attractive financial incentives it currently offers.
“Looking back at the last 2-3 CAF CL seasons, this opening round has given us some quality football; a couple of seasons ago you would anticipate to see 7-0, 10-0 score lines,” @Africansoccerup told Soka25east.
He added: “Majority of teams seem to have prepared well and there’s a lot of improvements in terms of traveling arrangements, which often affect performance.
“We obviously are also expecting some shockers with ‘small fishes’ swallowing big ones. Last season Mbabane Swallows of Swaziland were the giant killers, who will it be this time?”
Some of the minnows to keep an eye on at the preliminary round include Botswana’s Township Rollers, Uganda’s KCCA, Swaziland’s Mbabane Swallows and Kenya’s Gor Mahia.
The clubs are among those that have shown high level of organization and a burning desire to make a name in the continent.
For the second season running, CAF CL winners will pocket $2,500,000 with the runners-up taking home $1,250,000.
The winner will also play in this year’s FIFA Club World Club in the United Arab Emirates and 2019 CAF Super Cup.
Reaching the groups’ stage will earn a club $550,000.
Preliminary round 1st leg Fixtures;
Saint George vs Wau Salaam
CNaPS Sport vs KCCA
Zanaco vs Armed Forces
Bantu vs Mbabane Swallows
Stade Malien vs Williamsville
Al-Tahaddy vs Aduana Stars
ES Sétif vs Olympic Real de Bangui
Rail Club du Kadiogo vs CF Mounana
AS Real Bamako vs MFM
AS Otôho vs MC Alger
AS FAN vs Horoya
Génération Foot vs Misr Lel-Makkasa
Young Africans vs Saint Louis Suns United
Township Rollers vs Al-Merrikh
Gor Mahia 15 Leones Vegetarianos 10 Feb 2021 Fe
ASAC Concorde vs Espérance de Tunis
Plateau United vs Eding Sport
AC Léopards vs AS Togo-Port
LISCR vs Al-Hilal
JKU vs ZESCO United
Buffles du Borgou vs ASEC Mimosas
Ngaya Club vs UD Songo
Difaâ El Jadidi vs Sport Bissau
AS Vita Club vs Mighty Wanderers
de Agosto vs FC Platinum
Bidvest Wits vs Pamplemousses
Rayon Sports vs LLB Académic FC