Victories over Ghana’s Medeama and Young Africans of Tanzania has seen the Lubumbashi-based club rise to the summit of the standings with six points, two more than their host, who are enjoying a good run in their maiden appearance at the continental level.
Mazembe still has fresh memories of their last trip to Algeria, a 2-1 win over USM Alger in the first leg of last year’s CAF Champions League final and are buoyed by the result coupled with the back to fitness of talisman Rainford Kalaba and defender Yaw Frimpong.
In Velud, the Congolese have a coach who knows so much about Algerian football after stints with USM Alger and ES Setif, and his knowledge will come handy as they eye a hat-trick of wins at the group stage.
“I’m thrilled to return to Algeria to play against a club I know very well. This is the most difficult match of the group. For us, we want to continue what we have been doing lately”, said the Frenchman.
Kalaba has been in good form, scoring a brace in the 3-1 win over Medeama, and Velud has labelled him the ‘barometer’ of his side, who will be without new recruit and star of the recent African Nations Championship in Rwanda, Meschak Elia, currently on trials with Turkish side, Bursaspor.
Despite the mounting challenge, Bejaia coach Nacer Sandjak remains upbeat his charges can halt the winning spree of Mazembe, with their eyes fixed on the top.
“TP Mazembe is a direct competitor to qualify for the last four. We want to fully enjoy this great opportunity to confirm our unbeaten record and take first place in our group. We will be facing a litmus test in front of our fans, and the three points should remain in Bejaia”, said Sandjak.
In Dar es Salaam, Dutch trainer of Young Africans, Hans Van der Pluijm will come up against his former club, Medeama in search of their first point of the campaign and lift themselves from the bottom of the standings.
In Group B, holders Etoile du Sahel will host Libyan side Ahly Tripoli behind closed doors in Sousse following sanctions by the CAF Disciplinary Board, whilst Moroccan duo Kawkab and FUS Rabat battle it out in Marrakesh.
16.07.2016 Young Africans (Tanzania) vs Medeama (Ghana)
17.07.2016 MO Bejaia (Algeria) vs TP Mazembe (DR Congo)
15.07.2016 Kawkab (Morocco) vs FUS Rabat (Morocco)
16.07.2016 Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) vs Ahly Tripoli (Libya)