Wydad confident ahead of Champions League defence

Wydad Casablanca of Morocco celebrate winning the Confederation of African Football Super Cup after beating TP Mazembe of DR Congo 1-0 at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Wydad Casablanca of Morocco begin the defence of their African Champions League crown on Wednesday with coach Faouzi Benzarti confident of back-to-back successes in the elite African club competition.

"There is no reason why we cannot retain the title," the experienced Tunisian said ahead of a last-32 first leg at home to African rookies Williamsville of Cote d'Ivoire.

Benzarti can draw encouragement from Wydad's African Super Cup success last month.

The Moroccans dominated the multi-national stars of TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo more convincingly than the 1-0 score-line suggests.

Kept faith

"It is not easy to succeed against a team of the calibre of Mazembe.

"That victory has convinced me that we can win the Champions League again this year," said Benzarti.

France-born Amin Tighazoui, signed after they edged Al Ahly of Egypt in the 2017 Champions League final, scored the late winner.

Achraf Bencharki, a pivotal figure in Wydad's last Champions League campaign, has moved to Saudi Arabia while Benzarti has kept faith with most of the team.

Williamsville, whose board members include US-based former Cote d'Ivoire star Didier Drogba, upset Stade Malien of Mali in the preliminary round, where Wydad had a bye.

Record eight-time African champions Ahly also start with a home fixture, against Mounana of Gabon, who eliminated Rail Kadiogo of Burkina Faso last month.

Mounana gave Wydad a scare at the same stage of the competition last season, taking the Moroccans to a penalty shoot-out before bowing out.

Ahly coach Hossam el Badry acknowledged the threat posed by the central Africans.

Prize money

"My assistant (Sayed Mouwad) watched them live in the preliminary round.

"We got a fright from Wits of South Africa in a round-of-32 tie last year and I do not want a repeat of that start."

Wydad and Ahly are among 10 winners of the Champions League seeking overall victories and places in the group stage, where prize money starting at $550,000 kicks in.

TP Mazembe, the second most successful club in African competitions after Ahly, should be able to build a comfortable home lead over Songo of Mozambique.

Twice champions Esperance of Tunisia are away to Gor Mahia of Kenya in a repeat of the 1987 African Cup Winners Cup final, surprisingly won by the Nairobi outfit.

Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, who preceded Wydad as champions, play Rayon Sports in Rwanda.

African Champions League last-32 first leg fixtures:


  • Al Ahly (Egypt) v Mounana (Gabon)
  • Horoya (Guinea) v Generation Foot (Senegal)
  • Young Africans (Tanzania) v Township Rollers (Botswana)
  • Etoile Sahel (Tunisia) v Plateau Utd (Nigeria)


  • Saint George (Ethiopia) v KCCA (Uganda)
  • Zanaco (Zambia) v Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland)
  • Wydad Casablanca (Morocco, holders) v Williamsville (Cote d'Ivoire)
  • Aduana Stars (Ghana) v Entente Setif (Algeria)
  • MFM (Nigeria) v Mouloudia Alger (Algeria)
  • Gor Mahia (Kenya) v Esperance (Tunisia)
  • Port (Togo) v Al Hilal (Sudan)
  • Zesco Utd (Zambia) v ASEC Mimosas (Cote d'Ivoire
  • TP Mazembe (DR Congo) v Songo (Mozambique)
  • Difaa el Jadida (Morocco) v V Club (DR Congo)
  • Primeiro Agosto (Angola) v Wits (South Africa)
  • Rayon Sports (Rwanda) v Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)

Can Kiir deliver on his promise of peace and stability in South Sudan?

Read Story:Can Kiir deliver on his promise of peace and stability in South Sudan?