Group A will start with a bang as TP Mazembe and Zamalek compete on who gets to hit the ground running. Primeiro Agosto and ZESCO United have been to as far as the semifinal in recent memory and will definitely not play pushovers in this group.
Favourites – TP Mazembe
Mazembe are not quite the glamour club of the early 2010s. But the team remains a consistent feature of African club competitions. They reached the semifinals of the CAF Champions League last season and won the CAF Confederation Cup in 2017. They topped North African opponents in the group stage in 2018 and 2018/2019 to end talk that they particularly struggle against such opponents.
This time their challenge is Zamalek, a side they have a good record against. TP Mazembe are unbeaten in the last four encounters between the two. The Congolese are not spectacular by any stretch but are solid enough to stand out as group favorites.
Contenders – Zamalek
The White Knights can take respite in ending a lengthy drought for a continental trophy. Zamalek won the CAF Confederation Cup last season. Sad fact remains that Zamalek are only making a first group stage appearance since 2017. And even then, they did not enjoy their outing. The club failed to advance to the quarterfinal. Zamalek will be hoping an expensively assembled squad will clear that hurdle this time round. A host of Egyptian talent is strengthened with familiar names like Nagguez and Sassi from Tunisian plus Ounajem and Bencharki from Morocco.
Contenders – ZESCO Utd
ZESCO have not flourished in the CAF Champions League since their surprise semifinal finish in 2016. The club has done well to keep up appearances in the CAF Confederation Cup. We have learnt that ZESCO perform against their peers but come out clear second against the elite of the continent. I believe they will consider Primiero Agosto to be the former and bank on Zamalek to inexplicably underperform yet again. This is their chance to the quarterfinals.
Outsiders – Primeiro Agosto
Primeiro Agosto are a rising force in African football. They are in fact just completing one of the best club facilities on the continent.
Many swear that they would have gone on to the final in 2018 if the refereeing was fair. I do not know. I know that we see a lot of one-season wonder clubs in the CAF Champions League. And that you have to do it year in and out to earn our respect. Sundowns did it. Primiero Agosto have to overcome TP Mazembe and ZESCO as they did in 2018 plus the added flavour of Zamalek to be on their way there.
who do you predict to advance to the quarterfinals?