Raja Casablanca hinges CAF Champions League dreams on new signings

Raja Casablanca hinges CAF Champions League dreams on new signings

Raja Casablanca coach Patrice Carteron has strengthened his squad with six signings as they set their sights on winning the CAF Champions League, which kicks off Friday. 

Forward, Ben Malango from Democratic Republic of Congo club TP Mazembe is the latest acquisition by the Moroccan club who last won the competition 20 years ago.

Another Congolese, Fabrice Ngoma, Malian Salif Coulibaly and Moroccans Hamid Ahaddad, Omar Arjoun and Mohsine Moutouali have also joined the three-time African champions.

France-born Carteron guided Mazembe to the Champions League title in 2015 and took Al Ahly of Egypt to the final two years later.

Raja have been overshadowed in recent years by neighbours and fierce rivals Wydad Cssablanca, who have won the Champions League and been runners-up in the past three editions.

Wydad were declared losers of the 2019 final against Esperance of Tunisia this week by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) after storming off the field during the second leg.

A disallowed second-leg equaliser by Wydad in Tunis could not be reviewed because of a VAR malfunction and the visiting team refused to continue playing.  

Esperance, Wydad and Mazembe received byes into the round of 32 of the 2019/2020 edition, leaving Raja and 57 other clubs to compete in two-leg preliminary ties. 

Brikama United of the Gambia are the first hurdle Raja must clear, and they should do so without too much difficulty.

Security reasons –

Raja are among 11 clubs who have been crowned African champions that will be in action between Friday and Sunday.

Egyptian sides have won the competition 14 times — more than any other country — and Ahly and Zamalek launch their campaigns away to east African minnows. 

READ: CAF declares Esperance winners of controversial African champions league

Record eight-time trophy-holders Ahly meet Atlabara of South Sudan while five-time champions Zamalek take on Dekedaha of Somalia in Djibouti for security reasons.

Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, the only semi-finalists from last season not to receive a bye, face a potentially awkward away assignment against AS Otoho of Congo Brazzaville. 

Otoho shocked 2018 semi-finalists, Primeiro Agosto, last season and their aggressive style could unsettle former champions Sundowns. 

Fellow South Africans Orlando Pirates travel to Green Eagles of Zambia, one of nine sides debuting in the premier CAF club competition. 

Both Nigerian representatives, two-time champions Enyimba and Kano Pillars, face fellow west African sides. 

Enyimba are away to Rahimo of Burkina Faso while Pillars host Asante Kotoko of Ghana, who have been African champions twice, but not since 1983. 

Hafia of Guinea, who conquered Africa three times during the 1970s, return to the Champions League after a 36-year absence and face fellow former champions Etoile Sahel of Tunisia.

Etoile are under the guidance of veteran Faouzi Benzarti, the most successful African coach in CAF club competitions with five titles. 

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