CHAMPIONS Caps United face a tough draw in the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League group stage.
BY HENRY MHARA
The Green Machine shocked TP Mazembe at the weekend to book a place among the elite 16 in African club football.
The Lloyd Chitembwe-coached side held the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) champions nil-all in the first round second leg tie at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday to go through on the away goals rule, having drawn 1-1 in the first leg away in Lubumbashi last week.
However, they are most likely to face a tough draw after they were placed in Pot 4, when the 16 qualified teams were yesterday divided into four groups, graded according to their points on Caf’s five-year ranking.
The five-year ranking is used by Caf to determine the number of clubs that each Caf member association may enter in Africa’s club football competitions, the Caf Champions League and the Caf Confederations Cup.
At present, those associations ranked in the top 12 may enter two sides into each of the two continental tournaments, while the remaining associations are limited to a single side in each competition.
Zimbabwe are ranked at number 18, with local clubs finding it difficult in continental football, resulting in Caps United, with zero points, placed in the lowest-ranked Pot 4 in the seeding.
Other qualified teams with zero points and in Pot 4 together with Caps United are Zanaco of Zambia, Ferroviário Beira of Mozambique and Saint George of Ethiopia.
Each side will draw one team from each pot.
The Harare giants cannot face any one of the teams in Pot 4, but are on a collision course with some of the continent’s football heavyweights who have been placed in top pots.
They are sure to meet one of Zamalek, Al-Ahly (Egypt), Étoile du Sahel (Tunisia) or the tournament’s defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, all placed in Pot 1.
Pot 2 is dominated by North African teams in Espérance de Tunis (Tunisia), Wydad Casablanca (Morocco), USM Alger (Algeria) and Sudanese giants Al-Hilal, of which Caps United will also get one from this pot.
Caps’ third opponents in the group stages will come from Pot 3, which contains Al-Merrikh (Sudan), Coton Sport (Cameroon), AS Vita (DRC) and Al-Ahli Tripoli (Libya)
Matches will be played on a home-and-away round-robin basis. The winners and runners-up of each group advance to the quarter-finals.
The first set of matches will be played on May 12, 2017.
But in eliminating TP Mazembe, Caps United defied expectations and the team, will be looking forward to any opponent when the draw is conducted.
If they again move mountains like what they did in the previous round, they will qualify for the knockout stage, where the remaining eight teams will play a single-elimination tournament. Each tie is played on a home-and-away two-legged basis.
Caf Champions League group stage seeding
Pot 1: Al-Ahly, Zamalek, Étoile du Sahel, Mamelodi Sundowns
Pot 2: Al-Hilal, Espérance de Tunis, Wydad Casablanca, USM Alger
Pot 3: Al-Merrikh, Coton Sport, AS Vita, Al-Ahli Tripoli
Pot 4: Caps United, Zanaco, Ferroviário Beira, Saint George