All-star Line-up For CAF Champions League Semi-finals
The CAF Champions League semi-finals this weekend will feature an all-star cast of the last four winners, TP Mazembe, Mamelodi Sundowns, Wydad Casablanca and Esperance.
Wydad face Sundowns in Rabat this Friday, Esperance meet Mazembe in Rades the following day and both second legs are scheduled for next Saturday.
It is the first time since the premier African club competition debuted 55 years ago that the penultimate phase has featured the last four champions.
Trophy-holders Esperance of Tunisia are on a five-match Champions League winning streak, while Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo have gone six games unbeaten.
Wydad of Morocco have been inconsistent -- failing to win successive CAF matches even once -- while Sundowns from South Africa won two and lost two of their last four outings.
Should Sundowns and Mazembe qualify, it will be the first title decider since 2009 not to feature at least one north African club.
Here, AFP Sport previews the first legs with 2011 finalists Esperance and Wydad seeking aggregate leads while hoping to avoid conceding any goals at home.
Wydad v Sundowns
This will be the fourth tie between the clubs in three seasons with Wydad winning the three matches in Morocco and losing twice and drawing once in South Africa.
All five victories have been by one-goal margins with a solitary goal settling four of the clashes between 2016 champions Sundowns and successors Wydad.
A concern for Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane is the failure of his team to score in three previous visits to the north African kingdom.
"We need to score at least one away goal and if we fail to do so, we must draw," he stressed ahead of the journey from South Africa to Morocco, via Qatar.
Mosimane admitted he and rival coach, veteran Tunisian Faouzi Benzarti, know everything about their rivals, setting the scene for two potentially cagey, low-scoring tactical duels.
Sundowns winger Themba Zwane (six goals) and Wydad left-back Mohammed Nahiri (five) are among the leading Champions League scorers this season and potential match-winners.
Esperance v Mazembe
This showdown between clubs who have won eight Champions League finals between them is a rematch of a 2012 semi-final, which was decided in favour of Esperance by a solitary goal.
It could be equally close this season as both clubs have conceded few goals with Mazembe picking the ball from their net only six times in 10 matches and keeping six clean sheets.
Esperance have let in five goals in eight matches, and just one of those was conceded at the Stade Olympique on the outskirts of Tunis, an intimidating cauldron of noise and flares.
Crowd trouble spoilt the semi-final and final victories of Esperance in Tunisia last year, resulting in the side having to stage two group matches behind closed doors.
A contrast between the teams is that no Esperance player, including 2018 Champions League leading scorer Anice Badri, has scored more than twice during this campaign.
Mazembe veteran Tresor Mputu and young Jackson Muleka have been more successful than the Tunisians, scoring five each of 19 goals in total.