The big talking point will be the state of mind of Ben Malango. The former TP Mazembe striker should not expect much love when he returns to Lubumbashi. He will be hoping to lead a full-strength Raja Casablanca past their Congolese opponents because right now the Moroccan team is limping, beset by injuries. Check out all the main talking points below.
1. Ben Malango is coming home
The best thing about this is that ‘Big Ben’ will be heading back to Lubumbashi for the second leg. This means he will either inflict double sorrow on TP Mazembe fans or he will be laughed out of DR Congo and the Champions League. The striker forced a move away from Mazembe. He then had to wait for FIFA to okay his transfer to Raja Casablanca. His former supporters have not forgotten what they consider a betrayal. Malango’s agent has already come out begging FIFA and CAF to protect the player from potential harm when he goes back home. We all know how passionate the TP Mazembe fans can be but we expect fair play.
2. Local coaches showdown
There is always a heightened sense of expectation for local coaches in this competition. When they fail, they do not always get to ease their way to another top job as the mercenaries effortlessly do (you know who I am talking about). This is why we must always do as much as we can to support African coaches that get into these roles. And this tie stands out among the quarterfinal matches because it is the only one where local coaches will be facing off. Raja Casablanca is led by Jamal Sellami while Mazembe has been coached by Mihayo Kazembe for quite some time.
3. Raja’s injury list
What in the world is going on at Raja Casablanca? This team has not had a break with injuries for close to a year now. As you read this, about 7 players are out injured and we can only hope Sellami will have as close to a full squad as is possible ahead of the quarterfinal tie. Goalkeeper, Zniti has joined Moutouali, Hafidi, Benhalib, Boutayeb and Douik in the hospital waiting area. It could be that the club is stretching itself too far. Raja already had to deal with pathetic league scheduling last season but have now brought problems onto themselves by taking the Arab Champions Cup a little too seriously.
4. TP Mazembe’s record in Morocco
TP Mazembe used to be poor travellers to North Africa. They did some work to rectify that, including winning the 2015 CAF Champions League final away leg in Algiers. Unfortunately, their poor record away in Morocco sticks out. The DR Congo side has failed to score in 5 of their last 6 visits to Morocco. In fact, they have been to Morocco in each of the last 4 seasons. Their only good performance was against, CAFCL debutants, Difaa Al Jadida. I would be very worried if I was in the TP Mazembe camp.