Egypt's Ahly and Zamalek face off in Champions League

Al Ahly celebrate winning the 2012 African Champions League

Egyptian rivals Al Ahly and Zamalek have been drawn together in the group phase of the African Champions League.

The Cairo giants will face each other in Group A, alongside South Africa's Orlando Pirates and debutants AC Leopards of Congo.

Last year's losing finalists, Esperance of Tunisia, have been drawn in Group B alongside Coton Sport of Cameroon.

Sewe Sport of Ivory Coast and Recreativo de Libolo of Angola are the other teams in the group.

It is the second year running that Ahly, the reigning champions and favourites to win record-extending eighth title this year, have been placed in the same group as their neighbours Zamalek.

Each club plays its three opponents opponents at home and away between between 19 July and 22 September, with group winners and runners-up going through to the semi-finals.

And with Egyptian teams still forced to play behind closed doors following the Port Said tragedy, it means there will be no fans in four of the matches in Group A.

That could give Leopards and Pirates hope of doing well in their visits to Cairo.

However, Leopards lost all three of their away games in the qualifiers and, as the first club from Congo Brazzaville to make the Champions League group phase after winning the second-tier Confederation Cup last year, their lack of experience is another weakness.

Pirates last won the trophy 18 years ago but a win over four-time champions TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the last round has raised hopes that the sole South African winners of the competition can repeat the feat.

Five-time winners Zamalek look to be strong contenders, particularly if five-goal Ivory Coast-born striker Abdoulaye Cisse continues to hit the target.

In Group B, Recreativo Libolo boast the most impressive qualifying record with five victories and a draw.

Last year's beaten finalists Esperance will be highly fancied because of their pedigree.

But the fact that left-back Khalil Chemmam is their leading scorer with two of the three goals scored in this campaign suggests the Blood and Gold need to sharpen their strike force if they are to lift the trophy for a second time in three years.

The 2008 runners-up Coton Sport will look to teenage midfield star Alexis Yougouda Kada to provide a spark and the much-improved side may cause an upset.

Ivorians Sewe San Pedro shocked Al-Hilal of Sudan and FUS Rabat of Morocco en route to the last eight and will hope to continue in the same vein.

Apart from a $1.5 million first prize, the eight survivors from three rounds of qualifiers are chasing a 2013 Fifa Club World Cup place.

African Champions League draw:

Group A

Al Ahly (Egypt)

AC Leopards (Congo)

Orlando Pirates (South Africa)

Zamalek (Egypt)

Group B

Esperance (Tunisia)

Coton Sport (Cameroon)

Recreativo de Libolo (Angola)

Sewe Sport (Ivory Coast)

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