What makes Smouha SC's progress into the group phase of the Champions League especially remarkable is that the club only managed to gain promotion to the Egyptian Premier League for the first time in 2010. They enjoyed tremendous success last year, finishing runners-up in the league behind Al Ahly – allowing them entry into the Champions League - and advancing to the domestic cup final.
The Egyptians travel to Sudan this weekend and are hoping that they can end their run of three successive defeats away from home in the competition. Their pursuit has made Egypt's football-mad supporters stand up and take notice, and their dramatic triumph over Moghreb Tetouan overshadowed even Ahly's 3-0 Confederation Cup win over Esperance. The chairman of the club is Farag Amer and the well-known businessman has invested heavily to put together a strong team, built around midfielder Ibrahim Abdel-Khalek and strikers Hani El-Egeizi and Salah Amin.
Mazembe hoping to bounce back
The other match in Group A sees TP Mazembe, who are considered as the favourites to top the table, hoping to bounce back after their disappointing draw at home. The four-time winners of the competition arrived in Tangier a week before their match against Tetouan to ensure the-best possible preparations for the first of two successive matches on the road.
Young midfielder Wonder Bope, who enjoyed his first start in the competition against Al Hilal, said they were looking forward to the challenge. "The climate is very pleasant and the conditions are excellent. We started the preparations in a great way on Tuesday. There are two big games ahead. They will inevitably be difficult, and we know we have to do well in both games to keep our chances."
Mazembe coach Patrice Carteron will be able to call on captain Joel Kimwaki, as well as Gladson Awako and Yaw Frimpong, who carried slight knocks going to Morocco.
In Group B, the two winners from the first round, USM Alger and Al Merreikh, face each other in Algeria. USM, who stunned the defending champions ES Setif in their first match, are still without a full-time coach and there is speculation that former Tunisia boss Georges Leekens could be given the nod after the game against Merreikh.
The home side welcome back goalkeeper Mohamed Zemmamouche, who was suspended for the first game and have called up new signing Hocine Benayada. They will, however, be without midfielder Kadour Beldjilali, as well as long-term injured Mohamed Bouchama.
Second-division club MC El Eulma, who were beaten in Sudan by Merreikh in the first round of matches, face an uphill battle against Setif, who can't afford to start their group phase campaign with back-to-back defeats. The defending champions prepared for the all-Algeria clash with a 2-1 victory in a friendly game against USM Harrach.
Eulma coach Cherif Hadjar is confident that they can stun Setif. “We will show a different face from the one we showed against Merreikh," he said. "We have learnt from the mistakes and this will help us against a Setif team that is under as much pressure as we are not to lose. But our team is ready for the challenge against a team that is, of course, more seasoned and more experienced in continental tournaments.”