Champions League dates altered by Caf for the second time

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has again shifted the starting date for the 2020/2021 continental club competitions with the Champions League start pushed back. 

The Champions League and Confederation Cup schedules have been changed a second time with midweek fixtures reintroduced to the competitions.

Champions League dates altered again

Caf officials confirmed on Tuesday 15 September that the latest kick-off date for both the Champions League and Confederation Cup competitions is Friday 27 November.

The Caf competitions were set to start on 7 August, but were then pushed back to 20 November because of the coronavirus pandemic.

If the latest changes are adhered to the two-leg preliminary round matches will take place on 27-29 November and 4-6 December, followed by round-of-32 games on 22-23 December and 5-6 January.

Beyond January the dates in both competitions remain unchanged with the first Champions League matchday set for 12-13 February and the Confederation Cup matches beginning on 10 March.

After six matchdays will come the two-leg quarter-finals in May, the home-and-away semi-finals in June and single-match finals in July.

Four of the 15 Champions League rounds will be staged on Tuesdays or Wednesdays as Caf struggles to find match dates in a calendar that must also accommodate AFCON and World Cup qualifiers.

Midweek fixtures a bone of contention

Six of the 17 Confederation Cup rounds are also scheduled for midweek with three offering clubs a choice of playing on Tuesday or Wednesday and three others on Wednesdays.

It is believed that most participants will be unhappy at the prospect of having to stage matches during the week as the system did not work when previously introduced.

To date, 49 clubs have qualified for the Champions League and 43 for the Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

Heading the Champions League line-up are Al Ahly, whose 0-0 draw with Al Ittihad in Alexandria Monday ensured them of a top-two finish although they have seven games to play.

Ahly have been African champions a record eight times and face Wydad Casablanca of Morocco during October in the 2019/2020 semi-finals.

Zamalek of Egypt and Raja Casablanca of Morocco are the other semi-finalists and both are likely to be back in the elite competition next season.

Raja lead the Moroccan Botola Pro 1 standings while Zamalek hold an eight-point advantage over Al Mokawloon Al Arab in the race for second place behind runaway leaders Ahly.

There will also be numerous debutants, including Forest Rangers, a Zambian club who qualified despite 28 of the staff testing positive for COVID-19 when the season restarted.

Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs will enter the Champions League while Orlando Pirates and Nedbank Cup runners-up Bloemfontein Celtic will go into the Confederation Cup.

CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup dates for 2020/2021 season

Champions League

Preliminary round – 27-29 November, 4-6 December

Round of 32 – 22-23 December, 5-6 January 2021

Group stage Matchdays – 12-13 February, 23-24 February, 5-6 March, 16-17 March, 2-4 April, 9-11 April

Quarter-finals – 14 – 16 May, 21-23 May

Semi-finals – 18 and 20 June, 25 and 27 June

Final – 17 July

Confederation Cup

Preliminary round – 27-29 November, 4-6 December

Round of 32 – 22-23 December, 5-6 January 2021

Play-offs – 12 and 19 February

Group stage Matchdays – 10 March, 16-17 March, 2-4 April, 9-11 April, 21 and 28 April

Quarter-finals – 14 and 16 May, 21 and 23 May

Semi-finals – 18 and 20 June, 25 and 27 June

Final – 10 July

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