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CAF Champions League: Five Things To Know

The final edition of the CAF Champions League as the premier African club competition kicks off on Friday, with title-holders Wydad Casablanca among 58 contenders.

Staged annually since 1964, the competition will surrender its marquee status next year to the Africa Super League, a new, much richer 24-team event scheduled to kick off in August 2023.

The Super League will offer winners $11.5 million (11.6 million euros) compared with the $2.5 million pocketed by Champions League victors.

Here, AFP Sport lists five things about the 2023 Champions League, with Wydad hoping to become the fifth club to win back-to-back editions.

Wydad change
The three-time African champions have a new coach with Hussein Ammouta replacing Walid Regragui, who quit soon after a 2-0 victory over Egyptian outfit Al Ahly in the last final.

Regragui has since replaced Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic as coach of Morocco, one of five African qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off on November 20.

Wydad have received a bye to the round of 32 in October and should see off Rivers United of Nigeria or Watanga of Liberia and secure a place among 16 qualifiers for the group phase.

Ahly battling
Record 10-time Champions League winners Ahly are experiencing tough times, finishing outside the top two in the Egyptian league this season for the first time in 30 years.

Arch rivals Zamalek finished first for the second straight season and Pyramids, bankrolled by Saudi and Emirati petro dollars, pipped Ahly for second spot.

Portuguese coach Ricardo Soares is reportedly on his way out and Halilhodzic, who guided Raja Casablanca to 1997 Champions League glory, has been linked with the post.

Petro challenge
Petro Luanda were the surprise packets of last season as they reached the semi-finals before falling 4-2 on aggregate to Wydad.

A team coached by Portuguese Alexandre Santos will hope to fare better than fellow Angolans Primeiro Agosto, who got to the 2018 semi-finals but have made no impact in Africa since.

Petro start against African debutants Black Bulls from Mozambique and, if successful, will tackle Cape Town City or Congo Brazzaville flag-bearers Otoho for a slot in the group draw.

Sundowns disappoint
After Mamelodi Sundowns outplayed Zamalek to win the 2016 Champions League, South Africans hoped the Pretoria club would become perennial title challengers.

But the furthest they progressed since was the semi-finals in 2019 with four other attempts ending at the quarter-finals, including a shock loss to Petro in the last campaign.

They have bought South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams and Chilean midfielder Marcelo Allende, but probably lack the frontline strength to go all the way again.

Nigerian drawbacks
Enyimba are the only club from African powerhouses Nigeria to have lifted the Champions League, but the second of their back-to-back successes came 18 years ago.

This season it is the turn of Rivers and Plateau United to try and rectify the situation, but the qualifying draws did them no favours.

Assuming both survive the preliminary round, Rivers will face Wydad and Plateau will come up against four-time title-holders Esperance of Tunisia.

AFP

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