Johannesburg (AFP) – Salisu Yusuf faces a baptism of fire as Enugu Rangers coach Sunday when the Nigerian club host Pyramids from Egypt as the CAF Confederation Cup groups kick off.
National team assistant coach Yusuf now has two jobs after replacing Benedict Agwu, axed by Rangers this week after one win in five domestic league matches.
Enugu have not impressed in Africa either, edging modest rivals Pelican of Gabon and Kara of Togo to secure a group place in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League,
On the other hand, expensively assembled Pyramids have won five of six CAF matches, including all three on the road, and believe they can lift the trophy at the first attempt.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the eight matchday one fixtures in a competition won recently by many of the most successful CAF clubs, including the top two, Al Ahly and Zamalek of Egypt.
Rangers are banking on vastly experienced Yusuf to improve a team that does not seem capable of bridging a 42-year gap and bringing a second CAF trophy to Enugu.
“It is great to have a coach of the calibre of Salisu,” said club spokesman Norbert Okolie. “He told us his plan is to turn around the fortunes of the team.”
The fixture pits a Rangers team that has won both home qualifiers against a Pyramids side with a perfect three-match away record, including overcoming CR Belouizdad in Algeria.
Nouadhibou, the first Mauritanian club to reach the mini-league stage, host another Egyptian outfit, Al Masry, whose star forward is Palestinian Mahmoud Wadi.
Moroccan side Renaissance Berkane hope to go one step further than last season when they lost a two-leg Confederation Cup final against Zamalek on penalties.
The subsequent departure of Togo-born leading scorer Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba to Emirati club Al Ain has been a major blow to a team that overcame away losses in both qualifiers.
Berkane have home advantage over ESAE, surprise survivors from three elimination rounds and the first Benin club to secure a group place.
Democratic Republic of Congo outfit Daring Club Motema Pembe, winners of the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup in 1994, have home advantage over Zanaco of Zambia.
None of the 16 title contenders are more desperate to impress than South African side Bidvest Wits, who have often faced media accusations of not taking CAF competitions seriously.
The Johannesburg side, who host Group C favourites Horoya of Guinea in Soweto, have made a number of embarrassingly early exits to clubs from much lower ranked countries.
Coach Gavin Hunt hit back at critics, saying “those who believe we do not treat CAF matches seriously know nothing about football”.
While Horoya seek a first win in South Africa with a side including veteran Burkina Faso forward Aristide Bance, Al Nasr of Libya face Djoliba of Mali in Cairo for security reasons.
Enyimba have been the most successful Nigerian club in Africa with four CAF titles, but the last came 14 years ago when they beat Hearts of Oak from Ghana to lift the Super Cup.
They were among four clubs demoted from the CAF Champions League this season after last-32 losses, then defeated TS Galaxy of South Africa home and away to make the group phase.
However, 2019 quarter-finalists Hassania Agadir of Morocco, who host the Nigerians, are likely to prove much stronger than Galaxy, a second division side debuting in Africa.
First-time CAF competitors Paradou of Algeria, who shocked record three-time Confederation Cup winners CS Sfaxien of Tunisia in a last-32 tie, are away to San Pedro of the Ivory Coast.