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Football

Simba, Yanga chase history in CAF Champions League

DAR

Tanzania Premier League sides Simba SC and Young Africans SC will firmly carry the CECAFA flag this weekend when they face different opponents in the first leg of the 2023/2024 TotalEnergies CAF Champions League.

The two teams await to make history at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam when Simba SC take on African giants Al Ahly (Egypt) on Friday, while Young Africans SC battle South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns FC the next day.

After failing to go past the quarter final stage last season, Simba SC will be more than hungry to try and prove a point in a match expected to have fans fill the Stadium in what is anticipated a mother of all battles.

Interestingly when the two sides last faced off last year in the inaugural African Football League, Simba SC settled for a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Dar es Salaam, while the second leg also ended 1-1, but the Egyptians qualified for the next phase on an away goals rule.  In the group stage of the 2020/2021 Champions League Simba SC defeated Al Ahly 1-0, and the Egyptian giants also picked a similar score in Cairo.

Abdelhak Benchikha, Simba SC’s Algerian coach has however made it clear that they need to be in total control of the match from the start to the end because the first leg is very important in determining what comes out of the quarter final played over two legs. “We need to play as a unit because we are facing a strong side,” adds Benchikha.

To reach the quarter final stage Simba Sc ejected Zambia’s Power Dynamos in the second round, before coming out second in the group stage that had former champions Wydad AC, ASEC Mimosas and Jwaneng Galaxy from Botswana.

The Reds of Msimbazi Simba will look to some of their experienced players including DR Congo midfielder Henock Inonga Baka who helped his team finish fourth at the AFCON 2023 in Ivory Coast last month.

For Young Africans SC who lost in the final of the 2022/2024 TotalEnegies CAF Confederation Cup to Algeria’s USM Alger they are hoping to re-write their own history. It is the third time that they appear at this stage and are determined to leave their mark in the prestigious tournament.

But they come against a very tricky side, champions in 2016 and also lifted the inaugural African League last year. The Citizens as they are known how however vowed to go all out and ensure they get the much needed result before the return leg in South Africa.

Head coach Miguel Angel Gamondi has said although they respect Mamelodi Sundowns, his team has what it takes to get a good result at home. “We know what we must do to go past the first leg and later prepare for the return leg,” adds the Argentine.

Gamondi who brings a lot of experienced having handled Wydad AC, CR Belouizdad, and USM Alger among others is expected to make some changes to his team since some players are expected to return from injury.

The likes of Paçome Zouzoua from Ivory Coast has so far played a pivotal role in seeing Young Africans reach this far and a lot will be expected from him come Saturday.

Zouzoua has had four goals and two assists in nine games in the competition. To get this far Young Africans saw off Djibouti Telecom in the first preliminary round, and ejected Al Merreikh in the second round. They finished second in the group that had Al Ahly, CR Belouizdad (Algeria) and Medeama (Ghana)

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