The Finalists for the 2012 Orange Champions League will be known this by the end of this weekend after the return legs of the semi-finals involving Al Ahly and Sunshine Stars and Esperance of Tunisia against TP Mazembe of DR Congo.

After the first legs the Egyptians and the Tunisians seem to have had a slight advantage over their rivals by obtaining draw on their away matches but nothing is certain yet.

The six-time African champions Al Ahly played only nine official matches since the beginning of February, after the suspension of all competitions in Egypt. It is common knowledge that friendlies can not replace the League or the Cup.

This didn’t deter the Cairo team from having an excellent showing in the Champions League with five wins, four draws and two defeats. Ahly won all five home games against Ethiopian Coffee (3-0), Stade Malien (3-1), Berekum Chelsea (4-1) TP Mazembe (2-1) and drew 1-1 with Zamalek in a game with little at stake at that stage, with Ahly already through to the semis.

Esperance looks to set have a chance to retain its title and become the fourth club to achieve this alongside TP Engelbert (Mazembe) (1967 and 1968) as it was known then before repeating the feat as TP Mazembe winning the trophy in 2009 and 2010, Enyimba of Aba in Nigeria (2003 and 2004) and Al Ahly of Egypt (2005 and 2006).

Esperance must beat TP Mazembe first before reaching the final. The first semi-final clash is reminiscent of the 2010 final between the two clubs. The two clubs pulled a goalless tie in Tunis leaving the Congolese with home advantage in the return leg. Two years ago, Mazambe had thrashed the Tunisian club 5-0 in Lubumbashi.

But things seem different now, with the Tunisians having a slight edge. Esperance triumphed at home beating Brikama United 3-1, Dynamos of Harare 6-0, ASO Chlef 3-2 and Sunshine Stars. They also humbled Etoile of Sahel 1-0 before the relegation of the latter.

TP Mazembe didn’t perform too well in away games this season getting a 1-1 drew against Power Dynamos in Kwite, picked another 1-1 draw against El Merreikh in Omdurman, conceded a 2-1 defeat against Al Ahly in Cairo, recorded a 2-1 win still in Cairo against Zamalek, and also conceded a slim 1-0 defeat against Berekum Chelsea in Accra.

Finally, Sunshine Stars of Akure who are the surprise team at the semi-finals know they must win because unless they draw 4-4 or better it’s of no use but then again to score four goals in Cairo seems improbable. Up to now, the Nigerian club has not taken advantage of its away games.

The team conceded a 4-1 defeat against Deportivo Libobo, drew 1-1 with Djoliba of Bamako, recorded a 2-1 win away to ASO Chlef and conceded a 1-0 defeat against Esperance in Tunis.

Esperance and Al Ahly are favourites to reach the final considering their most recent performances. It will be very difficult for Sunshine Stars, but less so for TP Mazembe but nothing is certain and only after the weekend will we know the finalists.


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