Al-Ahly back for more

CAIRO - Club World Cup bronze medallists Al-Ahly of Egypt top a powerful list of entrants for the 2007 Confederation of African Football (CAF) draws in Cairo this week.

CAIRO - Club World Cup bronze medallists Al-Ahly of Egypt top a powerful list of entrants for the 2007 Confederation of African Football (CAF) draws in Cairo this week.

Ahly, third behind surprise winners Internacional of Brazil and Barcelona of Spain in the club championship in Japan, received a heroes welcome when they returned to the Egyptian capital yesterday morning.

By tomorrow they will know who their Champions League opponents will be next year in the qualifying rounds of the yearly $3,5 million competition.

After edging Club Sportif Sfaxien of Tunisia 2-1 on aggregate in a dramatic final last month to retain the title, Ahly are seeking a record third consecutive triumph.

But Sfaxien will not be in the next Champions League field after finishing only fourth in the Tunisian title race and having to settle for a place in the second-tier African Confederation Cup.

Former titleholders challenging Ahly are compatriots Zamalek, FAR Rabat and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, Asante Kotoko of Ghana, Asec of Ivory Coast, Canon Yaounde of Cameroon, Esperance of Tunisia, JS Kabylie of Algeria and TP Mazembe of DR Congo.

Other contenders are Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, winners of the Confederation Cup last month and equal third with Kayblie in a list of the most successful clubs in CAF competitions.

Mamelodi Sundowns, runners-up to Ahly five years ago, will be the sole South African representatives.

A notable absentee from the Champions League are Enyimba of Nigeria after five consecutive appearances, including shock back-to-back triumphs in 2003 and 2004.

Now the onus falls on debutants Ocean Boys and Nasarawa United.

There is also a strong Confederation Cup lineup, including former Champions League holders Club Africain of Tunisia.

The first home and away ties in the competitions are scheduled for late January and mid-February with the second round in March and the third in April. - Sapa-AFP

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