The new season of the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League starts on Friday, with the first preliminary round matches being played across the continent.
Burkina Faso’s Rail Club de Kadiogo will be returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2006 and they will take on Ghanaian giants Asante Kotoko in their first match.
Defending champions Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco and compatriots Raja Club Athletic, Tunisia’s Esperance, record champions and last season’s losing finalists Al Ahly, DR Congo’s TP Mazembe and Mamelodi Sundowns have all been exempted from the first round.
CAFOnline.com looks at the first round in perspective, and what to expect as the new interclub season rolls off.
Zalan FC (South Sudan) – Zalan, based in the South Sudanese region of Rumbek are playing the Champions League for the first time in their history after their maiden victory in the Premier League last season. They begin their campaign at home and will face Tanzania’s Young Africans.
ASN Nigelec (Niger) – Ningelec won the Nigerien Premier League for the first time ever and booked their maiden sojourn to the Champions League. They have one prior continental football experience, having played in the CAF Confederation Cup in 2014, where they lost to Algeria’s CS Constantine 4-3 in the first round. They will take on another debutant, Guinea’s Academie SOAR who won the title last season.
Flambeau du Centre (Burundi) – The Gitega based team clinched their first ever league title after a 2-1 final day victory over Athletico New Oil Academy. They thus qualified to represent Burundi in the Champions League for the very first time. They will take on Libya’s Al Ittihad in the first round.
Watanga FC (Liberia) – Watanga clinched the Liberian premier League title for the first time ever and will make their Champions League debut. They travel to Nigeria for a first round date against seasones side Rivers United.
Associaçao Black Bulls (Mozambique) – The Mozambican club won the top flight for the first time ever and earned a debut in continental football, with a ticket to the Champions League. They will take on experienced Angolan side Petro de Luanda in the first preliminary round.