download (3)

CAF Champions League semi-finals format changed a second time

The CAF Champions League semi-finals format has been changed a second time with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) saying Tuesday they would be played over two legs.

Home-and-away matches between Raja Casablanca of Morocco and Zamalek of Egypt and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and Al Ahly of Egypt was the original plan.

But CAF later announced that the semi-finals in the elite African club competition would become single matches in Cameroon port city Douala during September.

This plan had to be scrapped when Cameroon withdrew as hosts, citing the coronavirus pandemic and the possibility of seasonal downpours.

Egypt, Tunisia, 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were reportedly interested in replacing Cameroon, but CAF has opted for a return to two-leg semi-finals.

Raja and Wydad will stage the first legs on September 25 or 26 and then travel to Egypt for the return matches on October 2 or 3.

Should the title decider, provisionally scheduled for October 16 or 17, be an all-Moroccan or all-Egyptian affair, it will be played in the country of the finalists.

However, a neutral venue will be chosen if it involves one Moroccan and one Egyptian club, with countries having until August 15 to bid for the hosting rights.

Tunis logical venue

The 60,000-seat Stade Olympique on the outskirts of Tunis would be a logical neutral venue as the Tunisian capital is roughly halfway between Casablanca and Cairo.

CAF did not say whether spectators would be allowed to attend the semi-finals and final of a competition originally scheduled to finish three months ago.

Ahly have won the Champions League — called the African Cup of Champions Clubs until 1996 — a record eight times, Zamalek five times, Raja on three occasions and Wydad twice.

Meanwhile, the format for the CAF Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League, will remain single-match semi-finals in Morocco.

On September 22, Moroccan clubs Hassania Agadir and Renaissance Berkane will meet in one semi-final in Rabat and Pyramids of Egypt and Horoya of Guinea in the other in Casablanca.

The final is set for Rabat on September 27 and all three matches will be staged behind closed doors.

None of the four Confederation Cup contenders have lifted the trophy with Berkane coming closest when losing on penalties to Zamalek in the 2019 final.

Zamalek did not defend the title, opting this season for the richer Champions League, where the winners receive $2.5 million (2.1 mn euro), double that of the Confederation Cup.