CAIRO (Reuters) – Tunisian holders Esperance were handed a favourable pool for the group stages of the African Champions League when Friday’s draw presented them with two trips to southern Africa.
The Tunis side’s major rivals in Group B will be 1995 champions Orlando Pirates, of South Africa, while they also take on Horoya FC, from Guinea, and Zimbabwe champions FC Platinum.
With two teams in each group advancing to the quarterfinals, Esperance will be confident of successfully negotiating the pool stages in what looks a gentle start to their title defence.
Group A is likely to be more tightly-contested, containing South Africa’s 2016 winners Mamelodi Sundowns, Morocco’s 2017 champions Wydad Casablanca, Nigeria’s Lobi Stars and past holders ASEC Mimosas, from Ivory Coast.
Democratic Republic of Congo giants TP Mazembe will be confident of topping Group C which features three north African sides in Club Africain (Tunisia), CS Constantine (Algeria) and Ismaily (Egypt).
Egypt’s eight-time winners Al Ahly are the headline act in a Group D that will see them take on Simba SC (Tanzania), JS Saoura (Algeria) and AS Vita Club (DR Congo).
The group stage begins on Jan. 11-13 and will be completed by mid-March as the Champions League undergoes a change in calendar this season that will see it coincide with most top European Leagues and run from August to May.
Lobi Stars (Nigeria)
Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)
ASEC Mimosas (Ivory Coast)
Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
FC Platinum (Zimbabwe)
Horoya AC (Guinea)
Orlando Pirates (South Africa)
TP Mazembe (DR Congo)
Club Africain (Tunisia)
CS Constantine (Algeria)
Al Ahly (Egypt)
Simba SC (Tanzania)
JS Saoura (Algeria)
AS Vita Club (DR Congo)
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ian Chadband)