After their Super Cup meeting, Esperance and Raja Casablanca have at least two more opportunities to delight us with great matches. JS Kabylie and Vita Club do not have similar reputation but will be as eager to advance from Group D.
Favourites – Esperance Tunis
Esperance finally joined the exclusive club of African sides that have defended their CAF Champions League title. Read about how they did it. They will now seek to be part of a more exclusive one of those who have achieved a three-peat. And they must do it with a refreshed team after letting go of mainstays like Belaili, Kom and Bguir. The new side definitely has quality and hunger but the work is always in translating it on the pitch.
Favourites – Raja Casablanca
Raja will not be amused about playing second fiddle to the other Casablanca side in the domestic scene then see them steal their thunder on the continent. Raja Casablanca is supposed to be Morocco’s flag bearer in Africa. They return to the group stage having recently won the Confederation Cup and having kept together most of a solid starting XI. Place your bet on this team not just progressing from the group but doing really well (of course, always bet what you can afford to lose).
Contenders – JS Kabylie
We should be waxing lyrical about Algeria’s most successful club. This would happen if they had not been away from the CAF Champions League group stage for so long. It would also happen if they were not facing much more seasoned opponents. The side progressed via goal difference in both of their qualifier round ties. We should not always read too much from those matches but it is safe to say JS Kabylie will struggle away from home. You can look forward to the fact that Algeria always surprises us in the Champions League, though.
Contenders – Vita Club
Vita Club know that North African clubs never give much when playing at home. They will need to return the favour by going for a 100% record at home against the Maghreb trio. The Kinshasa team is far removed from the side that reached the final in 2014 but they should be rubbing hands at the prospect of playing spoiler to ambitions and, of course, actualizing their own of proceeding to the quarter-final.
Is it obvious that Esperance and Raja will advance from Group D?