Al Ahly and Etoile Sahel are clear favourites. They have made interesting recruitments to make up for previous failings. But we should expect Al Hilal and Platinum FC not to read from that script. Will there be an upset in Group B?
Favourites – Al Ahly
Al Ahly never needs an introduction. For this team, it is not a discussion of advancing to the quarterfinals. The issue is that enough years have passed since they last won the CAF Champions League. There is also the small matter of their unceremonious exit at the hands of Sundowns last season. 5-0, was it? Reaching back-to-back finals in 2017 and 2018 have not quelled matters much. The fate of the Al Ahly coach still depends on winning this competition.
Favourites – Etoile Sahel
This is everyone’s favourite Tunisian Club – everyone except Al Ahly fans. There are still hurting from smash and grab of 2007.
Etoile Sahel look to be getting closer to similar heights. The club has addressed some glaring issues in their squad and now even boasts of the competition top scorer, Karim Aribi. Etoile Sahel also only recently won the Arab Club Cup. It is not recognized by FIFA but they got to knock out Wydad and Raja Casablanca enroute to glory. There is the feeling that if it will come to choosing between this and the Tunisia Ligue 1, Etoile will pick the latter. I still rate them highly.
Contenders – Al Hilal
No disrespect, but Al Hilal is one of those “on their day” teams. Those days have become few and far between. In fact Al Hilal have downgraded to a CAF Confederation Cup side despite expansion of the Champions League group stage to 16 teams. The Omdurman already suffered under the hands of Etoile Sahel last season and will not fancy a short flight down the Nile to face Al Ahly. It could turn out to be a very long group phase for them. But what do I know?
Outsiders – Platinum FC
Any team that achieves consecutive CAF Champions League appearances is good enough in my book. So, why do I have Platinum FC as the teams with the least chance to reach the quarterfinals? First, they could not manage a win at this stage last season. And, this time, even with experience they will be facing much more hostile opposition. Maybe third-time is the charm.
Do you think Al Hilal and Platinum FC have a chance in Group B?