Africa's fallen heavyweights seek compensation in Confederation Cup

Raja Casablanca fans in Marrakech Steve Bardens/Getty Images

This weekend's CAF Confederation Cup playoffs present an engrossing array of fixtures and an opportunity for some of Africa's fallen heavyweights to redeem their continental campaigns.

16 teams dropped out of the CAF Champions League at that competition's playoff stage last month, but have a chance to extend their African campaigns beyond April via the last-chance saloon that is the Confed Cup.

Among the African heavyweights to have been eliminated from Africa's premier club competition - therefore missing out on the money-spinning group stage - are Zambia's Zanaco.

They were humbled 3-1 on aggregate by Swazi side Mbabane Swallows in the CAF CL playoffs, and things are unlikely to get any easier after they were paired with Raja Casablanca in the pick of the round's ties.

Raja are Morocco's most successful team in Africa, and while they currently find themselves in the shadow of city rivals Wydad, they are on course to eclipse the Red Devils domestically this term.

Having been exposed defensively against Swallows, Zanaco may struggle to contain a Raja side that boasts some of the stars of Morocco's African Nations Championship-winning squad.

Elsewhere, Democratic Republic of Congo giants AS Vita Club will also be aiming to salvage their continental campaign.

Les Dauphins Noirs won Africa's top club competition in 1973, but were undone by Moroccan upstarts Difaa El Jadidi in the playoff, missing out on the chance to join domestic rivals Tout Puissant Mazembe in the Last 16.

Despite their declining fortunes, they were one of the teams to avoid in the playoff round and represent a stern test for CS La Mancha, from nearby Congo-Brazzaville.

Nigeria are the best represented nation in the competition, but of their four competing sides-two of whom dropped out of the Champions League-arguably only first-timers MFM FC are favourites to advance.

They've been handed a stern draw against Mali's Djoliba, but have been attracting envious glances from their compatriots.

Enyimba will have to edge past South Africa's Bidvest Wits - dispatched by Primeiro de Agosto in the Champions League - while Akwa United have been drawn against Sudan's Al-Hilal Omdurman.

NPFL champions Plateau United, exposed against Etoile du Sahel in their CAF CL playoff, have perhaps the trickiest draw, but will take encouragement from USM Alger's own defensive failings away from home against AS Maniema Union in the last round.

The PSL's other representatives are last year's finalists, SuperSport United, whose form is yet to pick up following the exit of coach Eric Tinkler.

Their domestic struggles have exposed their vulnerability, and they could be there for the taking against a Gor Mahia side who largely held their own against Tunisian giants Esperance in their Champions League playoff.

Elsewhere, Ghanaian champions Aduana Stars will be determined to boost the GPL's troubled reputation against Madagascar's Fosa Juniors, while Young Africans will be determined to avoid another humiliation when pitched against Welayta Dicha.

The Ethiopians secured the most significant result in continental competition so far this term when they eliminated Egyptian behemoth SC Zamalek, but will they continue their run against a Yanga side who were stung by Township Rollers in the CL?

New Morocco international Ayoub El Kaabi should fire RS Berkane past Generation Foot, while it will be interesting to see whether Rayon Sports - recently subjected to a sanction after allegedly attempting to influence the referee in their tie against Mamelodi Sundowns - can see off Costa do Sol of Mozambique.