Fast forward two games and the Moroccan club suddenly find themselves leading the pack and well-placed for a historic place in the semi-finals. Tetouan, who are the only African club to have competed in Spain's La Liga – managing a 4-1 victory against Atletico Madrid and a 3-3 result against Real Madrid some 65 years ago – are away to four time-champions TP Mazembe and would be guaranteed a place in the round of the last four with a scoring draw in Lubumbashi.
Al Hilal, meanwhile, travel to Egypt for their match against already-eliminated Smouha and have the advantage that they will qualify with a draw, irrespective of the result in the other match. But Tunisian coach Nabil Al Kouki will be wary of playing conservatively against the Egyptian club in Alexandria. He can call on a strong defence, with Cameroon goalkeeper Maxime Feudjou and Sudanese international Saif Masawi being the key players in a back-line that has just conceded just two goals.
Debutants Smouha have three points in the group stage, coming from two goals behind to win their opener 3-2. They have since lost four on the trot since, including a rare reversal at home: 1-0 to Mazembe in July.
All clear in Group B
But while Group A remains wide open with everything to play for, the constellation in Group B allows much less speculation and the only real question remaining is whether USM Alger can become the first club in the history of the competition to win all six group matches. The Algerian club have secured top spot in the group ahead of their match away in Sudan against Al Merreikh. The Sudanese club, who have ten points, are guaranteed of finishing second behind USM and will face the winner of Group A in the round of the last four.
USM coach Hamdi Miloud has opted to leave some of his regulars in Algeria for the match which has no bearing on the outcome of the group. However, Miloud believes his side would still have a point to prove in Sudan. "It is wrong to say that the match between Al Merreikh and us is meaningless," Miloud said. "Certainly, the outcome matters little for both teams, but I think that this confrontation will be very beneficial for some of my players, those who do not play regularly in the Champions League.”
The French-Algerian coach is not impressed by the more statistical possibilities of a win. "I am aware that making a clean sweep in the group stage of the African Champions League will create history, but that does not interest me.”
The other game is an all-Algerian one, which sees defending champions ES Setif take on second division club MC El Eulma, who have lost all five group matches so far. Coaches for both eliminated teams have indicated that they will also use the opportunity to test out some newer players. Holders Setif have disappointed with just four points in their five group matches, failing in their quest to emulate the previous champions Al Ahly, who won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.
The semi-finals of Africa's biggest club tournament will be played over two legs at the end of September and start of October, with the champion to be determined also by a home-and-away tie by 8 November. The winner of the event will represent the continent at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan this December.