Johannesburg (AFP) – CAF Confederation Cup title-holders TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo must defeat visiting Horoya of Guinea this weekend to be sure of a quarter-finals place.
Every Group D match between leaders Mazembe, Horoya and third-place SuperSport United of South Africa has been drawn, setting the scene for a thrilling finale.
Mazembe and Horoya have nine points, with the Congolese occupying first place on goal difference, and SuperSport seven.
The Pretoria outfit complete their mini-league schedule at home to Mounana of Gabon, who have lost all five matches and conceded five goals at home to SuperSport.
Should Mazembe and Horoya draw in Lubumbashi and SuperSport win in Atteridgeville, there will be a three-way tie on 10 points.
A 0-0 or 1-1 draw in DR Congo would eliminate Mazembe while a 2-2 or higher-scoring stalemate would spell the end for SuperSport.
South Africa midfielder and SuperSport captain Dean Furman believes his team are too good to fail at the mini-league stage.
“Our back-to-back draws with Mazembe have given us a lot of confidence — we can compete successfully with the giants of African club football,” he told reporters.
SuperSport came from two goals behind to draw 2-2 at Mazembe and had the better of a 0-0 deadlock in a return match dominated by defences.
“There were a lot of positives for us from outplaying the Confederation Cup title-holders for large parts of both matches.
“We did not want a three-team race to the wire in the group, but that is what it has become,” said the midfielder whose primary task is to disrupt opposition attacks.
“Being eliminated this weekend would be a huge disappointment as the boys feel they can do better than that,” said Furman.
Victories for Mazembe and SuperSport are the likeliest outcomes of the Saturday matches, saving officials from scrambling for CAF rules books.
Group A is even more intriguing as Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) of Uganda, Club Africain of Tunisia, Rivers United of Nigeria and FUS Rabat of Morocco can qualify.
Africain host KCCA and FUS have home advantage over Rivers and in a mini-league where nine of 10 matches produced home wins, the north Africans sides are poised to triumph and advance.
Al Hilal Obeid of Sudan, one of the surprise sides of the Confederation Cup this season, have secured qualification from Group C, and will play a role in who advances with them.
Zesco United of Zambia will go through if they defeat the Sudanese in Copperbelt city Ndola and avenge a 1-0 away loss.
If Zesco lose or draw, the door opens for Recreativo Libolo of Angola and Smouha of Egypt, who clash in Calulo, southeast of Luanda.
Leaders Mouloudia Alger of Algeria and record three-time Confederation Cup winners CS Sfaxien of Tunisia have booked last-eight places from Group B.