African Champions League: PC Platinum in tough Group B

African Champions League holders Esperance of Tunisia will face Horoya of Guinea, Orlando Pirates of South Africa and FC Platinum of Zimbabwe in the group phase of the 2018/2019 campaign.

Friday’s draw split the qualifiers into four groups with each club facing their three rivals home and away.

Esperance staged a dramatic second-leg fightback in the 2018 final to defeat record eight-time African champions Al Ahly of Egypt 4-3 on aggregate last month.

The champions were excused from 2018/2019 qualifying because they were representing Africa at the Fifa Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where they finished fifth.

Horoya staged one of the greatest African club comebacks to reach the group stage, scoring in the second minute of second-leg stoppage time to pip Libyans Al Nasr 6-5 overall.

South African club Pirates won the competition in 1995 and were runners-up to Al Ahly in their last appearance five years ago.

Zimbabwean outfit Platinum are one of three title contenders who featured in the group draw for the first time.

Recent champions Wydad Casablanca (2017) of Morocco and Mamelodi Sundowns (2016) of South Africa are in Group A with former winners ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast and Lobi Stars of Nigeria.

It will be the third consecutive season in which Wydad and Sundowns clash in the competition with the Moroccans winning two, drawing one and losing one of the previous four matches.

Group A Group B Group C Group D
Lobi Stars (Nigeria) FC Platinum (Zimbabwe) TP Mazembe (DR Congo) Al Ahly SC (Egypt)
Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) Horoya AC (Guinea) Club Africain (Tunisia) Simba SC (Tanzania)
ASEC Mimosas (Ivory Coast) Esperance (Tunisia) CS Constantine (Algeria) JS Saoura (Algeria)
Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) Orlando Pirates (South Africa) Ismaily SC (Egypt) AS Vita Club (DR Congo)

Record eight-time champions Al Ahly are in Group D with 1973 winners V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Simba SC of Tanzania and newcomers JS Saoura of Algeria.

After losing the last two Champions League finals, Ahly are desperate for a ninth title and recently changed coaches, replacing Frenchman Patrice Carteron with Uruguayan Martin Lasarte.

TP Mazembe, the other DR Congo challengers and five-time African champions, were placed in Group C with Club Africain of Tunisia, debutants CS Constantine of Algeria and Ismaily of Egypt.

Mazembe have won three of the last 10 Champions League finals while 1991 champions Club Africain are back in the group phase after a 21-year absence.

The group winners and runners-up will qualify for quarter-finals with the first group matches scheduled for 11/12 January 2019. – BBC

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