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caf Champions League preview

caf Champions League preview

Mohammed Aboutraika will miss Ahly's game through injury
African Champions Ahly begin the defence of their title in Bulawayo on Sunday when they take on the champions of Zimbabwe, Highlanders.
Ahly, recent winners of the African Super Cup, were among six sides given a bye to the second round.

They will play their first match without midfielders Mohamed Barakat and Mohamed Aboutrika who are both injured.

Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel, Morocco's RAF Rabat and Ivorian champions Asec Mimosas.

Abidjan are the three other clubs who did not have to play in the first round while St George of Ethiopia and Desportivo Maputo of Mozambique progressed when their respective opponents withdrew.

Etoile have had their first leg tie away to Fello Star Labe postponed because of the uncertain political situation in Guinea.

A decision on whether the game goes ahead will be taken by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) later this week.

RAF Rabat had a tough debut at Ashanti Gold of Ghana on Sunday while Asec go to Sierra Leone to play FC Kallon, the team named after its owner, Monaco striker Mohamed Kallon.

FC Kallon were among several surprise packages in the first round, eliminating league champions Ocean Boys.

Sunday's first leg tie sees Ahly return to Bulawayo's Barbourfields stadium for the first time in 16 years.

They won 1-0 in a Champions Cup tie in 1991 when the Zimbabwe side featured a teenager in their lineup called Peter Ndlovu, who went on to play in the English Premier League.

Ahly travel under a cloud of continuing controversy over fixture congestion in the Egyptian league which sees them playing again just 24 hours after returning to Cairo next week.

RAF Rabat also have a cloud over their head following an attack by their players on the referee and linesmen at the end of last year's African Confederation Cup final.

The hearing into the incident has been twice held over by Caf but could still see the Moroccans handed heavy punishment.

Asec Abidjan will be wary of the short trip to Freetown for the game with FC Kallon.

Asec Abidjan have sold several of the key players that helped them reach last year's Champions League semi-finals, including captain Bakary Soro.

The second round starts on Friday when Esperance of Tunisia host Zambia's Zanaco.