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Caps draw Zamalek

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Zimbabwe football champions, Caps United were drawn into Group B of the Caf Champions League mini league stage alongside five-time champions Zamalek.

BY Kevin Mapasure

Ronald Chitiyo
Ronald Chitiyo

In addition to Zamalek, Caps United have two more North African trips lined up, after they were also grouped with Algeria’s USM Alger and Al Ahli Tripoli of Libya.

Group A has Esperance Tunis, El Merrikh, Al Hilal of Sudan and Mozambique’s El Merrikh.

If the Green Machine progress to the quarter-finals stage, they will meet a team from Group A.

The table-toppers of Group A meet the second-placed team from Group B, while Group B winners clash with the team that finishes second in Group A.

Reigning champions, Sundowns are in Group C together with Saint George, AS Vita, and Tunisian giants Esperance, while Group D comprises of Egypt’s Al Ahly, Wadad Casablanca, Coton Sport and Zambia’s Zanaco.

What Caps United and its faithful already knew before yesterday’s draw, which was held in Cairo, Egypt, and broadcast live on SuperSport 4, was that they were always going to get a tough set of matches, but it probably was the travelling that they may have been dreading.

In USM Alger, Caps face a tough opponent, as the Algerians finished runners-up in 2015.

The Algerian champions have never won the competition, but could prove to be tough opponents, considering their experience in the tournament in recent years.

Caps, however, feel they can get something from their matches against the Algerian champions and moreso against Al Ahli Tripoli, whose biggest achievement in continental club competitions is getting to the group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup last year.

Besides that, the club was knocked out of the Caf Champions League in the first, preliminary and second rounds in 2000, 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Zamalek, who lost last year’s final to Sundowns, have an intimidating profile, having won the competition five times.

Only Al Ahly of Egypt have won the competition more times than Zamalek, who have won it the same number of times as TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It has been a while, however, since the Egyptian giants won the competition, having last taken the silverware in 2002.

Caps United’s ambition, going into this competition, was reaching the group stage and having achieved that, they have set their sights on a quarter-final berth.

The Green Machine can draw inspiration from Dynamos, who played Zamalek in the group stages of the 2008 competition. DeMbare took three points off the Egyptian champions with a win in Harare following a defeat away from home.

DeMbare went on to reach the semi-finals of the competition that year.

Caf upped the stakes for this year’s competition, where, if Caps United fail to reach the next stage, they will get $550 000.

If Lloyd Chitembwe’s men manage to go to the quarter-finals, they will get $100 00 more.

Further success would see them earning $800 000 for reaching the semifinals.

Losing finalists of the competition will this year earn $1,25 million, while a $2,5 million purse is reserved for the champions.

Meanwhile, Caps United will start off their campaign with an away match against Zamalek during the weekend of May 12 to 14, before they host USM Alger on May 24.

The Green Machine will have a back-to-back clash with Al Ahli Tripoli, with the first match set for June 4, while the away match will be played between June 20 and 21.

The Zamalek home match is set for July 2, while Chitembwe’s side round off with an away match against USM Alger.

Group A: Etoile du Sahel, Al Hilal, Al Merrikh, Ferroviario Beira.

Group B: Zamalek, USM Alger, Al Ahli Tripoli, Caps United.

Group C: Sundowns, Esperance Tunis, AS Vita, Saint George.

Group D: Al Ahly, Wydad Casablanca, Coton Sport, Zanaco.

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