Johannesburg (AFP) – Fatigued Nkana FC of Zambia defend a 60-match record of never losing a CAF match at home when they host CS Sfaxien of Tunisia Sunday in a Confederation Cup quarter-final.
The Zambians go into the first leg in mining city Kitwe with coach Beston Chambeshi admitting that fixture congestion is taking its toll on his players.
“We lack breathing space,” he told reporters. “It has been hectic juggling domestic and African fixtures and my boys are tired from continuous pressure.”
While Nkana have made the last eight in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League, they struggled in the national league, winning only twice in seven matches.
Sfaxien have won the Confederation Cup a record three times and chartered a Tunisian air force jet to Zambia, greatly reducing travel time.
AFP Sport previews the first legs in a competition that has been dominated by north African clubs with 10 triumphs in 15 finals.
Nkana v Sfaxien
Nkana have been outstanding at home in the competition this season, scoring 11 goals in four matches despite losing Congolese Idris Mbombo to fellow title contenders Al Hilal of Sudan.
The clubs met 20 years ago in the now defunct CAF Cup with the Zambians winning 1-0 at home after being routed 4-0 away in the second round.
History could be repeated with Nkana capable of winning at home but not of finishing overall victors against opponents coached by 1970s Dutch star Ruud Krol.
Gor v Berkane
Gor Mahia of Kenya coach Hassan Oktay and four of his stars will watch the match against 2018 quarter-finalists Renaissance Berkane of Morocco from the stands because of bans.
But Turk Oktay is confident of victory despite the absence of captain Harun Shakava, fellow defender Shafik Batambuze, midfielder Ernest Wendo and striker Jacques Tuyisenge.
Rwandan Tuyisenge has scored five goals in the CAF campaign and Gor could struggle to find the net without him against what is likely to be a well drilled Berkane defence.
Etoile v Hilal
Hilal recently changed Tunisian coaches, replacing Irad Zaafouri with Nabil Kouki, and the impact has been immediate with two impressive home wins and two notable away draws in Africa.
A key figure for the Omdurman outfit has been Waleed Bakhet, whose six goals make him joint leading scorer this season with Godwin Aguda from now eliminated Enugu Rangers of Nigeria.
Etoile have lifted the Confederation Cup twice, most recently in 2015, but their form in Africa this year has been patchy under veteran French coach Roger Lemerre.
Agadir v Zamalek
Zamalek of Egypt are the equal third most successful club in CAF competitions with nine titles, but they are long overdue success having last triumphed 16 years ago.
The White Knights from Cairo take on Hassania Agadir of Morocco having already eliminated Ittihad Tangier from the kingdom in the Confederation Cup this season.
The biggest threat to Agadir could come from a defender as centre-back Mahmoud Alaa is the leading Zamalek scorer this season with a remarkable 14 goals.
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