Title holders Al-Ahly of Egypt seem assured of progressing this weekend to the final qualifying round for the African Champions League.
But a number of other big teams like Club Africain of Tunisia and Jeunesse Sportive Kabylie of Algeria could fall by the wayside when the 16 return matches in the second elimination phase are staged.
Ahly virtually sealed a place among the last 16 in the 3.5-million-dollar competition after outplaying Young Africans of Tanzania 3-0 in Cairo three weeks ago with Egypt midfielder Mohamed Barakat scoring twice.
Pre-match boasts from the Dar es Salaam club about toppling the six-time African champions proved hollow and Ahly are too experienced to let slip a comfortable advantage.
The Cairo ‘Red Devils´ will miss injured Ahmed Hassan, but Portuguese coach Manuel Jose is spoilt for choice in midfield with Mohamed Aboutraika, Barakat and Angolan Felisberto ‘Gilberto´ Amaral among his options.
Young Africans defender Nadir ‘Cannavaro´ Haroub oozes optimism and refuses to accept that the club which scored 14 goals against a Comoros Islands team in the first qualifying round cannot defy the odds.
“I consider this a mission possible. It will be tricky to score four goals against the champions, but the squad are focused and determined to overcome the odds,” Haroub told the Tanzanian media.
Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon, surprise finalists last year, take a fragile 2-1 lead to Gabon over Mangasport, who will be hoping to complete a great week for the central African nation.
Gabon caused the biggest upset of the 2010 World Cup-African Nations Cup qualifiers last weekend by winning in Morocco despite lacking star striker Daniel Cousin from English Premiership club Hull City.
The ‘Panthers´ line-up included Mangasport defender Rodrigue Moundounga and another star from the club, midfielder Jean Stephane Achy, was an unused substitute in Casablanca.
Garoua needed a stoppage-time goal to win the first leg and are feeling the departure after their 2008 run of goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda to Romania, midfielder Ousmaila Baba to Tunisia and top scorer Daouda Kamilou to Libya.
Several former champions among the nine in the field are staring elimination with Club Africain and Kabylie in gravest danger after suffering shock 2-1 home defeats.
Club visit Djoliba of Mali, where they forced a goalless draw last year in the second-tier African Confederation Cup, and Kabylie meet Al-Ahly of Libya in Tripoli knowing they must score at least twice to have any hope.
FAR Rabat, the first Moroccan club to conquer Africa, have to overhaul a 3-1 deficit when they entertain Heartland of Nigeria while 2007 champions Etoile Sahel of Tunisia take a slender 2-1 advantage over ASO Chlef to Algeria.
Asante Kotoko of Ghana and ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast bring two-goal leads to Al-Ittihad Khemisset of Morocco and Etoile Filante of Burkina Faso respectively and possess the experience to get through.
‘Bankers´ among ex-holders should be Canon Yaounde of Cameroon, one goal up against visiting Primerio Agosto of Angola, and Tout Puissant Mazembe of Democratic Republic of Congo, who take a 3-0 lead over Petro Atletico to Luanda.