African Soccer 7.4.2017 02:03 pm

Mazembe play Caf fixture they hoped to avoid

TP Mazembe Team Picture (Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix)

TP Mazembe Team Picture (Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix)

Democratic Republic of Congo club TP Mazembe tackle Algerian visitors JS Kabylie Sunday in an African fixture they were desperate to avoid.

The match is the highlight of 15 play-off first legs in the second-tier Caf Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the Europa League.

Mazembe are involved because they were shock round-of-32 casualties in the much richer, more prestigious Caf Champions League last month.

They are among 16 losers demoted to the Confederation Cup, whose $1,25 million (1,18 million euros) first prize is half that of the Champions League.

Mazembe, the second most successful club in Caf competitions with 10 titles, were also demoted last year and went on to win the Confederation Cup.

Defending the trophy will be a tall order for the team from southern Congolese city Lubumbashi with 10 other winners of CAF titles in contention.

Kabylie can boast of six African triumphs, but the last was 15 years ago when they won the now defunct Caf Cup a third consecutive time.

While Mazembe were losing on away goals to minnows CAPS United of Zimbabwe last month, Kabylie scraped past Etoile of Congo Brazzaville in the Confederation Cup.

Mohamed Boulaouidet scored the only goal of the tie a minute from time for the Algerians, his third in the competition this season.

Mazembe lack a consistent scorer since the recent departure of Jonathan Bolingi, one of three Mazembe stars signed by Belgian outfit Standard Liege.

The loss to CAPS cost French coach Thierry Froger his job just a month after being hired and assistants David Mwakasu and Pamphile Mihayo have been promoted.

Zesco United of Zambia were one of the surprise clubs of the 2016 CAF season, reaching the Champions League semi-finals with a multi-national squad.

Foreigners continue to play key roles this year in the Confederation Cup with goals from Kenyans Jesse Were and David Owino helping secure a play-off slot.

They are away to Enugu Rangers of Nigeria, whose lone Caf success came 40 years ago in the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup.

CS Sfaxien of Tunisia, winners of the Confederation Cup a record three times, meet Rail Kadiogo of Burkina Faso behind closed doors in Ouagadougou.

The disciplinary measure stems from bottle throwing and pitch invasions in a Champions League fixture last month.

Sfaxien are coached by Nestor Clausen, part of the 1986 Argentina World Cup-winning squad, and have an in-form goal poacher in Senegalese Waliou Ndoye.

The only tie between clubs from the same country involves FUS Rabat and MAS Fes of Morocco, both former Confederation Cup title-holders.

Play-off winners advance to the group stage, starting next month, with the 16 qualifiers earning at least $275,000.

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