It was not the best group phase of all time. But the CAF Champions League quarterfinals, this season, will have the best ever lineup of teams. All eight teams that qualified are former champions. This has never happened before.
Mamelodi Sundowns and TP Mazembe completed their group campaigns without defeat. Esperance Tunis broke the unbeaten record of the CAFCL by going 20 matches without defeat. Wydad Casablanca and Zamalek won only 2 matches but still qualified (embarrassing).
So, which is the team to fear ahead of the CAF Champions League quarterfinal draw? Check out our power ranking and find out (the draw is on 5th February, 2020 from 1900 CAT).
Zamalek were in a fairly easy group but could only win 2 matches. The Cairo team also failed to score a goal against, their big test in Group A, TP Mazembe. Coach, Carteron has a number of high profile names to rely upon in the knockout stages. He knows how to win the CAFCL and so do, the Moroccan duo of, Ounajem and Bencharki. But question marks remain about solidity of their defense – especially fullback position.
7. Wydad Casablanca
This Moroccan team has been up there as one of the most consistent sides in the Champions League in recent years. But they struggled to get to full gear for most of the group stage. It was not until after Janury transfer activities did we start to see the Wydad that we know. They brought on a game changer in Kasengu Kazadi. Can he maintain form for the last 8?
6. Al Ahly
Al Ahly was our tournament favourite. Unfortunately, they did not quite deliver the results and performances we anticipated. Nevertheless, the most successful team in CAFCL history survived that final match against Al Hilal and will be in the quartefinal draw. They could not win away from home, which means that they will be crossing their fingers for a good draw. Is there even such a thing this season?
5. Etoile Sahel
Another pre-tournament favourite for the CAFCL Gazette. Etoile Sahel managed to churn out results in the Champions League despite the fact that their domestic form hit rock bottom. The side has managed to keep, full back, Wadji Kechrida despite interests from French Ligue 1. Secondly, finishing first in the group means they will have the privilege of playing the second leg at home.
4. Raja Casablanca
Let us first get it out of the way that Raja are better than Wydad. The rivals have played 3 times this season with the Greens coming out on top. Anyway, Raja Casabalanca could not beat Esperance in Group C. This is not a good sign. However, they kept pace with them in finishing with 11 points. Raja have a strong starting XI and their only issue will be showing maturity to handle demands of this competition like the other seasoned teams.
3. TP Mazembe
TP Mazembe was the highest scoring team in the group stage. It will be a big test for any team that is unfortunate to come up against the confidence of Jackson Muleka. The young striker scored more goals than some of the teams that are in the quarterfinals. A concern for, coach, Mihayo will be that his team had a habit of conceding in every match, save for the ones against Zamalek.
2. Esperance Tunis
Esperance Tunis are faced with the herculean challenge of winning the CAF Champions League for a third consecutive season. They did show in the group stage that they can achieve the feat. In the final group match, against JS Kabylie, the Tunis side fielded their “B Team”and saw their unbeaten run come to an end. Sometimes, this can have the effect of killing team momentum.
1. Mamelodi Sundowns
Sundowns made the Group of Death look pretty easy. The Pretoria team travelled to Algiers and Casablanca and did not even concede a goal. They did this while sticking to their style of proactive football. This sense of freedom will make them a dangerous foe in this round of nerves. But Pitso Mosimane needs to incorporate that little bit of cynicism into his team as we are a long way from the final.