Kaizer Chiefs’ pursuit of the CAF Confederation Cup title has to feel like a bit of a booby prize given that they are there only as a result of Champions League failure.
And yet, Amakhosi are unlikely to encounter a drop in class as they take on ASEC Mimosas in a two-legged battle to reach the group stage of Africa’s second-tier competition. The first leg is at Dobsonville Stadium today (3pm).
ASEC are probably the most famous club in the Ivory Coast and have over the years produced some of the country’s most impressive talent, international stars like Bonaventure Kalou, Salomon Kalou, Didier Zokora and reigning CAF African Player of the Year Yaya Toure all coming from ASEC’s renowned academy.
Since 1990, ASEC have won the Ivorian title a startling 17 times, while on the continent they won the Champions League in 1998.
Three years earlier, of course, ASEC were famously beaten by Orlando Pirates, Jerry Sikhosana’s goal in Abidjan handing the Buccaneers the Champions League.
Of late, ASEC have dropped off the pace slightly at domestic and continental club level.
The “Black and Yellows” have not won their domestic title since 2010, and have not made it to the Champions League group stage since 2008.
In the Confederation Cup, ASEC reached the group stage in 2011, after dropping down – like Chiefs this year – from the Champions League.
Last year, however, ASEC were knocked out of the competition in the second qualifying round, by CODM Meknes of Tunisia.
Last season, ASEC could finish only fifth in the Ivorian standings, but qualified for the Confederation Cup again by virtue of winning the Ivorian Cup.
ASEC are currently second in Ligue 1, four points behind reigning champions Sewe Sports with seven games to go.
Siaka Traore’s side have made it to this play-off round of the Confederation Cup by taking down CO Bamako of Mali and CS Constantine of Algeria, who they hammered 6-0 in Abidjan to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.
Thus, the onus is probably on Chiefs to get as large a lead as they can in Dobsonville this afternoon, before heading to the Ivorian capital next weekend.
Traore has brought a 17-man squad to South Africa, with their main attacking threat coming from 24-year-old Foba Stevens Koffi, who has scored in every round of the competition so far, and 27-year-old Koffi Davy Boua, ASEC’s top scorer this season.
Chiefs’ chances of success will also depend on how seriously they take the competition, with coach Stuart Baxter set to field weakened sides, here and especially in Abidjan, as Chiefs seek to defend their Absa Premier League title and win the Nedbank Cup.
“I think we can put a competitive team out, a team that will maybe gain more than if we put more stabilised players into the frontline,” said the Chiefs coach.
“I am hoping the game will show a bit of the development that is going on here. There is more chance that we will top up the team in the first leg, than send our frontliners on an eight-and-a-half-hour trip to Abidjan, to come back the next day and travel to Polokwane to play an Absa Premiership game.” - Sunday Independent