CAPS, Ngezi to know fate

HARARE - CAPS United and Ngezi Platinum Stars will know their opponents for the 2017 African Champions League and Confederation Cup when draws for the competitions are conducted in Cairo, Egypt today.

The Green Machine will be representing the country in the Champions League after they were crowned Castle Lager Premiership champions for the 2016 season while Chibuku Super Cup winners Ngezi Platinum Stars will do battle in the Confederation Cup.   

The two teams are currently finalising their squads for the African safari and should be fancying their chances after Caf announced next year’s tournaments will comprise four groups.

This means the clubs are now likely to play a maximum of two rounds to make it into the lucrative group stages.

Speaking to the Daily News ahead of today’s draw, Ngezi Platinum coach Tonderai Ndiraya said he is hoping his team will avoid big teams in the preliminary round to enhance their chances of making it into the group stages.

“We are preparing for anything. But remember, we are a small team getting into the competition for the first time and we are going there to learn,” Ndiraya told the Daily News yesterday.

“But at the same time, we will also try to learn and win matches. So as an individual, I would love to avoid big teams in the opening stages to boost our chances of qualifying for the next round. We would love to take one step at a time.

“Our first priority will be to qualify for the second round then we will see from there.”

Ndiraya said the Ngezi management is currently seized with ensuring the team secures their targets in time to beat the Caf deadline for player registration on December 31.

“I’m told the management is close to completing some deals and they want to make sure before Christmas. They are running around to make sure we have a squad in place.”

CAPS coach Lloyd Chitembwe said he would only comment after the draw but United president Farai Jere revealed his desire was to see the Green Machine reach the group stages of the Champions League at last Friday’s awards ceremony.

“We are now representing the country in the Caf Champions League next year and we need to fly our national flag with pride and we can assure you we will not let you down,” Jere said.

South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns are the current title holders and will be among eight winners of the Champions League who will compete in the premier African club competition next year.

Al Ahly and Zamalek of Egypt, TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Enyimba of Nigeria and Esperance and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia are among the teams who will challenge for honours.

Mazembe and V Club of DR Congo and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco complete the list of former winners who have confirmed their participation.

Other confirmed entrants include three former Confederation Cup title-holders — AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville, FUS Rabat of Morocco and Stade Malien of Mali.

Three winners of the now-defunct African Cup Winners Cup, Al Merrikh of Sudan, Enugu Rangers of Nigeria and Horoya of Guinea, are also in the line-up.

Next year’s tournament has an increased financial reward in a new format with first prize increasing by 66,6 percent to $2,5 million.

The runners-up will receive $1,25 million, semi-finalists $875 000, quarter-finalists

$650 000 and the eight group qualifiers who fail to make the knockout stage will pocket $550 000 each.

Caf have cut the two-leg qualifying phase from three rounds to two and doubled the number of qualifiers for the mini-leagues from eight to 16.

Clubs eliminated at the last-32 stage of qualifying get a second shot at African glory by dropping to the Confederation Cup, which star-studded Mazembe won this season.

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