A home draw for Pirates of South Africa against AC Leopards of Congo on Saturday will ensure they and Zamalek of Egypt advance from Group B.
Former Confederation Cup winners Etoile Sahel of Tunisia also need a draw, away to Stade Malien of Mali Sunday, to progress from Group A. Ahly of Egypt can join them by winning at Esperance of Tunisia Saturday, and a draw would suffice if 2009 Confederation Cup title-holders Malien lose.
Leopards were the Group B party-poopers, halting the three-match winning streak of Zamalek with a 1-0 victory in Dolisie thanks to a Tresor Moukenga goal. Now they face an equally challenging assignment, at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, where they held Pirates 0-0 in a CAF Champions League group game two seasons ago.
The combative Congolese, who slumped 1-0 at home to the Buccaneers during June, will draw inspiration from absent captain Rudy Guelord Bhebey-Ndey ahead of a must-win match for them. Experienced striker Bhebey-Ndey suffered serious spinal and head injuries after falling awkwardly during a loss to Zamalek in Cairo last month and surgery at an Egyptian military hospital saved his life.
Leopards stunned Africa by winning the 2012 Confederation Cup, were 2014 semi-finalists, and Pirates coach Eric Tinkler is understandably respectful of the central Africans. "Defeating Leopards will not be easy - winning in Congo does not guarantee us three more points just because the match is in Soweto."
However, it would be a shock if 1995 African champions Pirates fail to collect at least one point and become the first Confederation Cup semi-finalists from South Africa.
Varied outlook for Tunisians
Record three-time Confederation Cup title-holders CS Sfaxien of Tunisia have been a major Group B disappointment, collecting just one point from a possible 12 and cannot reach the knockout stage. The Tunisian side host Zamalek, a team they contained for 89 minutes in Cairo before losing to goal from Ivorian-born Burkina Faso citizen Abdoulaye Cisse.
Etoile drew 0-0 at Stade Malien at the same stage of the 2013 Confederation Cup and a similar result is possible given the group records of both clubs. Stade have won only two of 11 home matches while 2006 title-holders Etoile have dodged defeat in nine of 14 away games.
The Malians long for a return to scoring form by Moctar Mohamed Cisse, who bagged three against Congo DR outfit V Club in a two-leg play-off, but none in four group matches.
Ahly, winners of a record 19 CAF titles but seeking a first away group win in the Confederation Cup, are back in Tunisia two weekends after losing at Etoile.