Tanzanian giants Simba have been incredible as East Africa’s sole representatives at half-way stage of this season’s Caf Champions League group stage.
The Msimbazi Reds, who boast of Uganda Cranes’ defensive midfielder Taddeo Lwanga, are top of Group A with seven points from three matches.
That tally puts them ahead of record nine-time champions Al Ahly and, more importantly, Simba are just one of two teams across the four groups that is yet to concede a goal.
Coach Didier Gomes’ side now has a chance to seal a quarterfinal spot should they pick maximum points when Sudanese club Al Merrikh visit their fortress in Dar es Salaam this afternoon.
Simba, owned by business magnet Mo Dewji, are plotting to dominate African football. The results thus far are promising and a win to could elevate the 1993 Caf Cup finalists’ hopes way high.
The 20-time Tanzanian Premier League champions meet a struggling Merrikh, who have collected just a point from the goalless draw at home to Simba on the reserve fixture on March 6.
Merrikh’s Ugandan midfielder Saidi Kyeyune missed that fixture due to coronavirus infection.
Simba’s mathematics could be made lighter in case holders Al Ahly and AS Vita, tied on four points apiece, share the spoils in Kinshasa like it were in Cairo over a week ago.
Onyango’s Sundowns brimming
Elsewhere, Mamelodi Sundowns with Cranes’ skipper Denis Onyango find themselves in a new spot after the club owner Patrice Motsepe was announced new Caf president last week.
As that sinks in, they will be in the spotlight in Group B when they host DR Congo bigwigs TP Mazembe in Pretoria.
The 2016 winners Sundowns became the first team to make the last eight after ending Mazembe’s continental 74-match unbeaten home streak in Lubumbashi, thanks to Lyle Lakay’s late free-kick 10 days ago.
Sundowns are top with a maximum nine points but Mazembe, who have Cranes’ left-back Joseph Ochaya in their fold, must act to make the next grade.
The latter have just two points, but stay in second thanks to better goals record than the bottom two sides who also have two points – Al Hilal of Sudan and Algerian side CR Belouizdad – leaving the race for second place wide open.
Hilal have appointed Jose Mourinho’s former assistant Ricardo Formosinho as head coach, and Cranes’ goalkeeper Salim Jamal appears to have returned in the side’s starting XI ahead of their home encounter against Belouizdad.
CAF champions league match day 4
Simba (TAZ) vs. Al Merrikh (SUD)
AS Vita (DRC) vs. Al Ahly (EGY)
Al Hilal (SUD) vs. Belouizdad (ALG)
Sundowns (RSA) vs. TP Mazembe (DRC)
Horoya (GUI) vs. Wydad (MAR)
CAF Champions league standings
GROUP A P W D L F A Pts
Simba 3 2 1 0 2 0 7
Vita Club 3 1 1 1 6 4 4
Al Ahly 3 1 1 1 5 3 4
Al Merrikh 3 0 1 2 1 7 1
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Group B P W D L F A Pts
Sundowns 3 3 0 0 9 2 9
Mazembe 3 0 2 1 1 2 2
Hilal 3 0 2 1 1 3 2
Belouizdad 3 0 2 1 2 6 2
Group C P W D L F A Pts
Wydad 3 3 0 0 7 0 9
Horoya 3 1 1 1 2 2 4
K.Chiefs 3 1 1 1 2 4 4
Petro Luanda 3 0 0 3 0 5 0
Group D P W D L F A Pts
Esperance 3 2 1 0 6 3 7
Mouloudia 3 1 2 0 2 1 5
Zamalek 3 0 2 1 1 3 2
Teungueth 3 0 1 2 1 3 1