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African champs Esperance draw Horoya, Pirates, Platinum



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CAF Champions League trophy-holders Esperance of Tunisia will face Horoya of Guinea, Orlando Pirates of South Africa and FC Platinum of Zimbabwe in the 2018/2019 group phase.

The Friday draw at a luxury Cairo hotel overlooking the Nile river split the qualifying survivors into four groups with each club facing their three rivals home and away.

Tunisian outfit Esperance staged a dramatic second-leg fightback in the 2018 final to defeat record eight-time African champions Al Ahly of Egypt 4-3 on aggregate last month.

The champions were excused from 2018/2019 qualifying because they were representing Africa at the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where they finished fifth.

Horoya staged one of the greatest CAF comebacks to reach the group stage, scoring in the second minute of second-leg stoppage time to pip Libyans Al Nasr 6-5 overall.

Soweto-based South African club Pirates won the competition in 1995 and were runners-up to Al Ahly in their last appearance five years ago.

Zimbabwean outfit Platinum from southern mining town Zvishavane are one of three title contenders who featured in the group draw for the first time.

Recent champions Wydad Casablanca (2017) of Morocco and Mamelodi Sundowns (2016) of South Africa are in Group A with ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast and Lobi Stars of Nigeria.

It will be the third consecutive season in which Wydad and Sundowns clash in the competition with the Moroccans winning two, drawing one and losing one of the previous four matches.

Record eight-time champions Al Ahly are in Group D with 1973 winners V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Simba SC of Tanzania and newcomers JS Saoura of Algeria.

After losing the last two Champions League finals, Ahly are desperate for a ninth title and recently changed coaches, replacing Frenchman Patrice Carteron with Uruguayan Martin Lasarte.

TP Mazembe, the other DR Congo challengers and five-time CAF champions, were placed in Group C with Club Africain of Tunisia, debutants CS Constantine of Algeria and Ismaily of Egypt.

The Congolese have won three of the last 10 Champions League finals while 1991 champions Club Africain are back in the group phase after a 21-year absence.

Group A
1. Wydad Casablanca (MAR), 2. Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA), 3. ASEC Mimosas (CIV), 4. Lobi Stars (NGR)
Group B
1. Esperance (TUN, holders), 2. Horoya AC (GUI), 3. Orlando Pirates (RSA), 4. FC Platinum (ZIM)
Group C
1. TP Mazembe (COD), 2. Club Africain (TUN), 3. CS Constantine (ALG), 4. Ismaily (EGY)
Group D
1. Al Ahly (EGY), 2. V Club (COD), 3. Simba SC (TAN), 4. JS Saoura (ALG)

Matchdays: January 11-12, January 18-19, February 1-2, February 12, March 8-9, March 15-16