Johannesburg - French coach Hubert Velud described the players
of Democratic Republic of Congo club and African champions TP Mazembe as
"incredible professionals" when he was hired this year.
The blond 56-year-old former goalkeeper hopes they live up
to that praise Wednesday when trying to overturn a 2-0 CAF Champions League
last 16 first leg defeat by Wydad Casablanca in Morocco.
At stake is a place in the lucrative group phase for the
overall winners while the losers descend to play-offs in the second-tier CAF
The clubs also met in a last 16 tie five years ago with
Wydad winning 1-0 at home and losing 2-0 away only to be reinstated when
Mazembe were kicked out for using an ineligible player.
Wydad went on to finish runners-up, the second best showing
by the club from the Moroccan commercial capital after winning the 1992
Mazembe have been much more successful, winning the premier
African club competition in 1967, 1968, 2009, 2010 and last year.
But the African form this year of the Ravens from southern
Congolese city Lubumbashi has been underwhelming in defence of a title worth
$1.5 million (1.3 million euros) to the winners.
They needed the help of an own goal to draw 2-2 with modest
Saint George in Ethiopia and took 85 minutes to score the lone second leg goal
via a Jonathan Bolingi penalty.
After falling behind just before half-time in Casablanca to
an Abdellatif Noussir goal, Reda Hajhouj converted a second half penalty amid
Mazembe protests that the foul was outside the box.
Also read: TP Mzembe gunning for third CAF Super Cup
Previously successful with Moroccan and Algerian clubs,
former Togo handler Velud accepts that he faces one of his greatest coaching
"Winning trophies is a habit at Mazembe and you are
aware of that although I was not given specific objectives when signing a
one-year contract," he said.
"Continual success in the CAF Champions League is very
important to Mazembe because winning the competition secures a place in the
FIFA Club World Cup."
Wydad coach, twice Real Madrid manager and former Liverpool
and Wales striker John Toshack has mixed emotions ahead of the second leg at
the 20,000-seat Stade TP Mazembe.
"Our first leg performance was among the best since I
joined the club two years ago, but it is likely to be a very different game in
"We will be playing on an artificial surface in an
atmosphere unique to Africa. What does count in our favour is not conceding at
While Hajhouj poses an obvious threat with five CAF goals
this season, Mazembe have yet to find a successor to Tanzania striker Mbwana
Aly Samatta, who has moved to Belgium.
Mazembe and Wydad are among nine Champions League winners
seeking group places and just one of the eight second legs does not involve a
Enyimba of Nigeria defend a 3-0 lead over Etoile Sahel in
Tunisia thanks to a first leg hat-trick from Mfon Udoh, leading scorer in the
competition this season with seven goals.
A brace by DR Congo-born Idris Mbombo has put Zambian outfit
Zesco United in a favourable position as they host Stade Malien of Mali holding
a 3-1 advantage.
Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa hope Colombian Leonardo
Castro and Zimbabwean Khama Billiat can transfer sparkling domestic form to
Africa as they strive to overcome a 1-0 defeat by V Club in DR Congo.
Egyptian giants Al Ahly and Zamalek, winners of 13 Champions
League titles between them, should progress under one-time English Premier
Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Martin Jol handles Ahly,
who enjoy home advantage over Young Africans after drawing 1-1 in Tanzania.
Ex-Birmingham City and Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish
guides a Zamalek team that will defend in Algeria a 2-0 lead over Mouloudia
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