It is a shame that we have to carry out a review of the first matchday of the 2020/2021 CAF Champions League knowing that not all matches of the round were played. We will have to wait a little longer to see Kaizer Chiefs take part in the CAFCL group stage.
There were no shocks over this round of matches unless you consider Vita Club disappointing in the CAFCL Group Stage yet again a shock. Esperance Tunis managed to dig deep to beat Teungueth FC. Zamalek and TP Mazembe failed to score at home but did not suffer the setback of defeat.
Enough recap. Here are the 4 things we learned from matchday 1:
1. CAF Association Ranking is Broken
We use the CAF Association Ranking to differentiate quality of teams in the CAFCL Gazette Power Rankings. The home defeat of Vita Club at the hands of Simba got us rethinking the ranking criteria.
It is a weak argument to claim that DR Congo teams are better than Tanzanian Premier League teams just because the former league is ranked higher by CAF – due to TP Mazembe’s performances anyway. We will be changing to the use of the CAF Club Rankings to assess team quality.
2. Why Always Africa?
All we are asking for is CAF Champions League matches on TV, match schedule discipline and zero-tolerance on crowd trouble (after Covid-19). These things are the bare minimums in other continents but for CAF it becomes the most gargantuan task. Why? Aaah!
3. Five Times CAFCL Winners in Trouble
TP Mazembe and Zamalek are effectively in Groups of Death. Strong home form is typically most important in these kinds of groups. So, it is concerning that this duo who have won the CAFCL five times dropped points at home – to CR Belouizdad and MC Alger respectively.
They both lost key strikers in Jackson Muleka and Mostafa Mohamed but it is no excuse because they have been enjoying excellent league form in the build-up to the CAF Champions League group stage.
4. Al Ahly and Sundown are Early Favourites
Al Ahly and Sundowns were not the only winners of the CAFCL Group Stage Matchday 1. But they were the only ones who won with some swagger; and this against Sudanese opposition no less. Ahly and Masandawana dominated their respective matches and created tons of good chances. They look unplayable by matchday 1 standards.