Algerian clubs dominate in 2015 African Champions League

This year’s African Champions League group stage features three clubs from the same country for the first time.

The three sides from Algeria, including reigning champions Entente Setif have all been drawn in the same group.

El Euma who were relegated at the end of May, are joined by USM Alger and Sudan’s Al Merreikh in Group B.

Former winners TP Mazembe of DR Congo and Sudan’s Al Hilal are joined by debutants Egypt’s Smouha and Moghreb Tetouan of Morocco in Group A.

El Eulma are aiming to emulate Setif by becoming only the second club from the second division to win Africa’s premier club competition.

Setif achieved the feat in 1988, losing top-flight domestic status during an African campaign crowned by a 4-1 final triumph over Nigerians Iwuanyanwu Nationale.

Champions League newcomers Eulma play Sudanese Al Merreikh in Omdurman on Friday in their opening Group B fixture.

Coached by Frenchman Jules Accorsi, who turns 78 on Saturday, Eulma scored 40 goals in the 30-round Algerian championship, more than any of the other 15 clubs, including champions Setif.

Merreikh’s Franco-Italian coach Diego Garzitto knows what it takes to lift Champions League trophy having done it in 2009 with TP Mazembe.

“Repeated early Champions League exits are unacceptable to a big club like Merreikh, we are now planning to go far,” stressed Garzitto.

Both Group A games are set for Sunday with Mazembe hosting Al Hilalfor the second successive season before Smouha play Moghreb Tetouan in Alexandria.

Mazembe, who are the only team from south of the equator remaining in this year’s competition. beat Hilal 3-1 in Lubumbashi last year.

Hilal did win a 2009 Champions League semi-final in Lubumbashi, but only after a heavy first-leg home loss.

Mazembe have a multi-national squad, including Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo and midfielder Roger Assale and wingers Solomon Asante of Ghana and Rainford Kalaba of Zambia.

TP Mazembe president Moise Katumbi says the time has come for the four-time African champions to win the title again.

“Mazembe is prepared to face any team because in the draws you can’t choose which team to play,” Katumbi said.

“It is a big opportunity for us to defend the reputation of the southern region which we need a lot the support of the people and it is a big stress because. We have to win the Cup.

“There is a lot of pressure. We need the coach work very hard and the players need to be disciplined and work very hard because really it is a big target.”

“What is important for Mazembe is to get back the Cup this year.”

Smouha will be wary of Tetouan, who eliminated Egyptians Al Ahly in the final qualifying round and boast the leading Champions League scorer this season in six-goal Mouhcine Iajour.