Wed, Dec 24, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Kaizer Chiefs dealt tough hand in CAF draw

AFP, JOHANNESBURG

Runaway South African Premiership leaders the Kaizer Chiefs were handed a tough route on Monday if they want to be equally successful in the CAF Champions League.

The draw for next year’s qualifying rounds paired the Soweto club with Batwanans Township Rollers in a preliminary two-leg tie, which they should win easily.

Assuming the Chiefs clear the first obstacle in Africa’s premier annual club competition, organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Moroccan side Raja Casablanca and title-holders ES Setif loom large on the horizon.

Three-time Champions League winners Raja will be favored to beat Republic of the Congo side CSM Diables Noirs in their preliminary match-up, with the first legs scheduled for mid-February.

Should the Amakhosi survive last year’s FIFA Club World Cup runners-up Raja, they are likely to tackle two-time African champions Setif for a place in the group stage.

Setif, who edged AS Vita Club of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on away-goals after a 3-3 aggregate deadlock to win this year’s final, have a preliminary bye.

The Algerian side are to confront Gambian side Real Banjul or Liberian club Barrack Young Controllers in a last-32 tie.

The Chiefs failed to reach the group stage in three attempts, losing narrowly to V Club this year.

Mamelodi Sundowns, the other South African challengers, were equally unlucky in the draw, as four-time tournament winners DR Congolese side TP Mazembe await if the Pretoria club overcome the Seychelles’ St Michel United.

The top-12 ranked countries are allowed two entries and South Africa are back among the elite after a four-year absence thanks to Orlando Pirates finishing runners-up in last year’s AFC Champions League.

Nigerian teams Kano Pillars and two-time Champions League winners Enyimba International got favorable pairings as they seek to atone for poor showings this year.

Kano are to begin with an away-game against South Sudanese side Al-Malakia, while Enyimba — the only Nigerian club to have won the competition — host Beninese outfit Buffles Borgou in the first leg.

The elevation of South Africa to two-entrant status meant Ghana dropped out of the top 12, leaving two-time African champions Asante Kotoko as the lone flag-bearers.

Kotoko face Sierra Leone’s East End Lions, while Kenyan club Gor Mahia, victims of an eight-goal last-32 thrashing from Tunisia’s Esperance Sportive de Tunis this season, were paired with Madagascar outfit CNaPS Sport, and Congolese AC Leopards await the winners.

Having dismantled the Young Africans-Simba title dominance in Tanzania, ice cream company club Azam face a tough Champions League baptism against vastly experienced CAF campaigners Sudanese side El-Merrikh.

Egyptian icons Al-Ahly, winners of a record 19 CAF titles after lifting the 2014 Confederation Cup, are among seven clubs who received preliminary-round byes.

Powerful Confederation Cup contenders V Club, Tunisian outfits Club Africain and Etoile du Sahel and Egyptian team Zamalek were among nine sides to also get byes.

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