CAF Champions League

Semi-Finals 1st Legs Preview

The last four winners of the CAF Champions League battle it out for a spot in the decider of this year’s tournament. TP Mazembe, Mamelodi Sundowns, Wydad Casablanca and Esperance won Africa’s coveted prize in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively which should make for titanic battles in the semi-finals.

Friday 26 April

9/20 Wydad Casablanca | Draw 15/4 | Mamelodi Sundowns 11/2 (21:00)

This is fast becoming one of the most fiercely-contested rivalries in African football as these African football powerhouses are known for playing mind games and subjecting each other to dreaded hostility when they meet. The mutual antipathy manifested itself in the most recent meeting on South African soil when Pitso Mosimane was seen shouting at Wydad officials during a TV post-match conference. In the return leg, Wydad fans had held up a big banner which taunted the Brazilians’ coach.

These sides met at the group stage of this particular competition with the Brazilians winning at home and losing in Morocco. Most African teams are known for not losing at home and that has been the case in all six meetings between these two teams. Sundowns have won two and drawn of the three matches at home and they’ve lost all three away games.

Wydad are currently riding the crest of the domestic Moroccan league wave with a nine-point gap on second-placed Raja Casablanca, however, they have failed to win any of their last to league games, losing to third-placed Hassania Agadir and drawing against second-placed Raja. They should be grateful to the league as three of their domestic games have been postponed to cater for their continental commitments.

On the other hand, the Brazilians have to jet off to Morocco after a crucial league game against Chippa United on Tuesday afternoon. Fatigue is starting to take its toll on their players and that was clearly evident in their 2-0 defeat against SuperSport United but they redeemed themselves against Baroka who they beat 2-1. Speaking of the Baroka game, captain Hlompho Kekana was rushed to hospital after a malicious tackle and he remains a doubt for this game.

The Brazilians might have been inconsistent domestically which has seen Orlando Pirates overtake them on the standings but their Champions League form has been superb and they’ve recently thrashed Al Ahly 5-0 at home to register a 5-1 aggregate score.

This will be a tightly-contested encounter and my prediction will be based on the fact that Wydad are well-rested and they have won all their home meetings with Mamelodi Sundowns, hence why I’ll back the Moroccan giants to triumph.

 

Saturday 27 April

5/10 Esperance | Draw 7/2 | TP Mazembe 17/4 (18:00)

Esperance are the defending champions and their home record has also been quite remarkable! In the domestic league, they’ve lost only one of their 20 games so far and they enjoy a nine-point lead on second-placed CS Sfaxien. Their impressive home record was clearly evident when they eased past Orlando Pirates who had given them a hard time at Orlando Stadium.

I foresee the Tunisian outfit going for the kill here as they know how difficult it will be in DRC as TP Mazembe are unbeaten in the CAF Champions League at Lubumbashi since 18 October 2009. Since that defeat they have gone 44 games unbeaten with a record of 36 wins and eight draws.

Mazembe are well-rested as they currently lie second on the log and only three points off the pace with four games in hand. Their games were obviously postponed to accommodate their continental commitments. They were held to a goalless draw by top-placed AS Vita Club this past weekend.

The common trend in African football is teams losing or drawing away and winning or drawing at home and I foresee that being the case here. Put your money on Esperance.

DOUBLE @ 11/10
Wydad Casablanca Win 9/20
Esperance Win 5/10

Benedict Ngwenya

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