Absa Premiership

Sundowns, Pirates among CAF Champions League entries

Pitso Mosimane (Gallo Images)
Pitso Mosimane (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates will be part of the CAF Champions League 2019 edition draw in Morocco this weekend.

CAF Champions League finalists Al Ahly of Egypt and Esperance of Tunisia, who play the first leg later Friday, will also form part of the draw.

The two sides are among 10 former trophy-holders who have qualified for the next chapter of the premier African club competition, which kicks off on November 27.

Whichever side wins the 2018 final after the second leg next Friday in Tunisia receives a bye into the 16-club group phase.

This one-off decision is necessary because the champions will be involved in the FIFA Club World Cup during December when the Champions League round-of-32 ties are scheduled.

A consolation for the 2018 runners-up is that they will be excluded from the preliminary round, beginning their campaign instead with a last-32 tie.

The 2019 Champions League is being staged from November until May and acting as a bridge between the current and new formats of the 54-year competition.

Since debuting in 1964, the Champions League (formerly the African Cup of Champions Clubs) was a February-to-November competition.

But with many African countries having an August-to-May season, CAF agreed last year to change the dates of the Champions League and second-tier Confederation Cup competitions.

The 2019 editions will be staged between November and May and from the 2020 competitions onwards, there will be August-to-May seasons.

A format of two home-and-away qualifying rounds, a six-matchday group phase, and two-leg quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals remains.

There is also no immediate change to the prize money, which kicks in at the group stage with $550 000 and rises to $2.5 million for the champions.

The other eight former trophy-holders entering the draw include TP Mazembe and V Club from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates of South Africa.

Club Africain of Tunisia, Ismaily of Egypt, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast have also lifted the most prized club trophy in Africa.

Entrants for 2019 who have won other CAF competitions include Al Merrikh of Sudan, Horoya of Guinea, Stade Malien of Mali and Gor Mahia of Kenya.

Ittihad Tangier of Morocco, Al Nasr of Libya and Jimma Aba Jifar of Ethiopia are some of the sides set to make Champions League debuts.

Guinea-Bissau club Benfica must hope for better results than this season after being crushed 10-0 at Difaa el Jadida of Morocco - a record one-leg loss in the competition.

Poor results by Nigerian clubs for more than a decade have seen the country slip down the rankings and they will be restricted to one entry having fielded two previously.

Congo Brazzaville and Mali have also been relegated with Libya, Cameroon and Mozambique elevated to two-club status.

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