Khama Billiat with Pitso Mosimane. Picture: Backpagepix

Africa's second strongest region misses out

Not a single club from west Africa – widely regarded as the second strongest football region after the north – will be in the draw.

Rivers United of Nigeria must have fancied their chances after whipping Al Merrikh of Sudan 3-0 at home, but collapsed to a 4-0 hiding in Omdurman.

There are seven clubs from the north, four from the south, including title-holders Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, three from the east and two from the centre.


Experienced contenders but also newbies on display

Record seven-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt and Esperance of Tunisia are easily the most experienced contenders with 13 previous group appearances.

Zamalek of Egypt have qualified eight times before this season, Etoile Sahel of Tunisia and Al Hilal of Sudan six times and USM Alger of Algeria four times.

Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya, CAPS United of Zimbabwe, Ferroviario Beira of Mozambique, Saint George of Ethiopia and Zanaco of Zambia are debutants.


Violence forces Tripoli side to play elsewhere

Al Ahly Tripoli will be severely handicapped by not being able to play in Libya because of ongoing post Moamer Kadhafi era violence.

Caf have banned club and national team fixtures in the north African state as rival governments and militias fight for control of territory and oil wealth.

Ahly used a stadium in Tunisian capital Tunis as their “home” venue during qualifying victories over Wa All Stars of Ghana and FUS Rabat of Morocco.


Will perfect qualifying records help Saints and Etoile?

Saint George and Etoile Sahel boast the two perfect qualifying records among the 16 survivors seeking a record $2.5 million first prize.

The Ethiopian “Saints” defeated Cote d’Or of the Seychelles 3-0 and 2-0 before beating AC Leopards 1-0 in Congo Brazzaville, then 2-0 at home.

After receiving a preliminary round bye, Etoile overpowered AS Tanda of the Ivory Coast 3-0 in Mediterranean resort Sousse and won 2-1 in Abidjan.


Sundowns boss has an interesting wishlist

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane says he wants to dodge clubs who play on artificial pitches and countries that can be reached only after multiple flights.

“Give me any side, but not one where my team will have more than one flight to get there,” said the former South Africa striker and coach.

“I would also prefer to avoid playing on artificial pitches,” he added as Sundowns hope to become only the fourth club to successfully defend the title.