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Strong line-up as CAF Champions League starts

Johannesburg, Thursday @PeopleSports11 Record eight-time title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt are among 10 former winners who qualified for the 2018 CAF Champions League, which begins this weekend with preliminary round first legs. Defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and five-time winners TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo are other powerful outfits in the 59-club field.

After a bye, Wydad launch their title defence against Stade Malien of Mali or newcomers Williamsville of the Ivory Coast, neither of whom look likely giantkillers. There are also five teams who have won other CAF competitions, making it one of the strongest line-ups in the 54-year history of the leading African club competition.

AFP Sport looks at what lies in store at the qualifying stage for clubs capable of becoming champions and pocketing $2.5 million (Sh254 million). Al Ahly (Egypt) After a preliminary-round bye, the 2017 runners-up captained by goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy should eliminate Kadiogo of Burkina Faso or Mounana of Gabon and secure entry to the lucrative group stage.

Al Hilal (Sudan) Twice runners-up, an Omdurman outfit packed with Sudanese internationals must overcome LISCR of Liberia and Leopards of Congo Brazzaville or Port of Togo, tasks well within their capabilities.

Entente Setif (Algeria) The 2014 winners are unlikely to be troubled by Real Bangui of the Central African Republic, but probable last-32 rivals Al Tahaddy of Libya loom as a potential “banana skin”.

Esperance (Tunisia) It would be a stunning turn-up if the 1994 and 2011 champions fell to Concorde of Mauritania or the winners between Gor Mahia of Kenya and Leones Vegetarianos of Equatorial Guinea.

Etoile Sahel (Tunisia) The only club to win all five current and former CAF competitions, including the 2007Champions League, have a bye, then confront Plateau United of Nigeria or Eding Sport of Cameroon, both debutants.

Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) South Africa winger Percy Tau stars in a multi-national squad seeking a second title in three years and it is difficult to imagine Rayon Sports of Rwanda or LLB Academic of Burundi stopping them. -AFP

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