UEFA Champions League
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Aktobe Lento
Dinamo Tbilisi
3:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 0
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FK Ventspils
Malmo FF
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
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HJK Helsinki
Rabotnicki Kometal
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
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Steaua Bucuresti
Stromsgodset
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 0
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NK Maribor
Zrinjski Mostar
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
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St Patricks
Legia Warsaw
6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 1
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FC Aarau
FC Sion Sitten
5:45 PM GMT
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FC Zürich
FC Thun
5:45 PM GMT
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San Jose
Chicago
2:30 AM GMT
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San Antonio Scorpions
Carolina RailHawks
12:30 AM GMT
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San Lorenzo
Bolívar
10:45 PM GMT
Leg 1
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Arsenal de Sarandí
Instituto de Córdoba
9:30 PM GMT
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Godoy Cruz de Mendoza
Defensa y Justicia
12:30 AM GMT
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Ceará
Chapecoense AF
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 1
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Avaí
Palmeiras
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
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ABC
Novo Hamburgo
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
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Santa Cruz FC
Botafogo da Paraiba
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 1
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AA Ponte Preta
CR Vasco da Gama
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
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Corinthians
Bahia
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 1
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Alianza Lima
Sport Huancayo
1:00 AM GMT
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U. Católica
Mushuc Runa
Postp
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Emelec
Deportivo Quito
Postp
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Independiente del Valle
Club Deportivo Cuenca
Postp
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Olmedo
El Nacional
Postp
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Liga de Loja
LDU Quito
Postp
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Manta F.C.
Barcelona
Postp
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Albirex Niigata
FC Tokyo
0
1
FT
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Gamba Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse
4
0
FT
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Kashima Antlers
Omiya Ardija
2
2
FT
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Sagan Tosu
Kawasaki Frontale
0
1
FT
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Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Kashiwa Reysol
5
2
FT
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Tokushima Vortis
Urawa Red Diamonds
0
2
FT
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Vantforet Kofu
Cerezo Osaka
0
0
FT
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Vegalta Sendai
Nagoya Grampus Eight
3
3
FT
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Yokohama F. Marinos
Vissel Kobe
1
1
FT
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Washington Spirit
Portland Thorns FC
11:00 PM GMT
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Mar 25, 2014

Nkana FC's uphill climb

If Zambia's Nkana FC do not beat Zamalek in Cairo this Sunday, it will be five years since a team from their country last participated in the group stage of the CAF Champions League. That may not sound too serious, but remember that over that span Zambia's national side were crowned continental champions at the African Nations' Cup in 2012, so the lack of similar success for Zambia's clubs is concerning, especially when reflecting on the high road Nkana have taken so far.

From the outset, the Zambian champions have been climbing uphill. They lost their opener 2-0 against minnows Mbabane Swallows, who have never been past the preliminary round of this tournament, and the manner in which Nkana went down raised eyebrows. They were totally dominated by the opposition, their defence was opened up, they were careless, lucky to escape conceding a penalty and they squandered at least three clear goal chances, two by midfielder Kelvin Mubanga.

It was as rude a wake-up call as there can be and even the CAF thought so. In their preview of the return leg, the continent's organising body said Nkana had a reputation to save after going down to the unfancied Swazis and Nkana took their time rising from their slumber. On their home turf in Kitwe, they conceded the first goal to leave their supporters stunned.

When the possibility of bowing out of the competition became a stark reality, Nkana finally responded. Ronald Kampamba's brace put them in front, but not in a position to go through. It was only when December signing Simon Bwalya stormed to a hat-trick that their position in the next round was secure. The three goals were the first Bwalya netted since his acquisition and proved correct what club president Ken Mwansa predicted at the time of his signing.

"Simon can withstand the pressures of the midfield in the Champions League," Mwansa said. "He has experience at this level." Bwalya's previous club, Power Dynamos, took part in the 2012 version and lost in the first round qualifiers to the DRC's TP Mazembe, a club against whom most oppositions learn something.

Having progressed from the preliminaries, albeit in the most difficult fashion they could muster, Nkana would have been pleased to be paired with Kampala City Council in the first round. The Ugandans have played in the second round once, in 2009, but have never featured in the group stage.

The first leg of the tie was at home and Nkana were slow off the starting blocks again. They were held to a 2-2 draw as their defence was again described as worrying. The two blows Kampala FC struck away from home ensured that the advantage lay with the Ugandans in the return leg. Kalusha Bwalya, the Zambian FA president, hid any fury he may have had by simply saying Nkana "knew what they had to do," in Uganda.

History, at least, was on Nkana's side. They went to Uganda having not lost there in 20 years. Again, Bwalya was the man who set the tone. He scored the first goal, but five minutes into the second half, the Ugandans were level again. Kampamba had an opportunity from a free kick, but it was punched back into play for Christopher Munthal, who sealed Nkana's second round spot with a clean strike.

Their relief would soon have turned to anxiety when they saw who they were up against in the second round of qualifying: Zamalek. Nkana have played the Egyptian giants before and lost. The memory of that will not be too fresh because it was a dozen years ago, but it was at the same stage of the competition. In 2002, Zamalek won the first fixture 2-0 at home before drawing 1-1 in Zambia.

This time the draw has come first and Nkana will want to make sure it's not followed by defeat. But they'll have to overcome odds again and a Zamalek side that is filled with determination. "We are in a good position to reach the last eight," their coach Ahmed Hossam has declared.

Zamalek, along with their Cairo rival Al-Ahly, have asked CAF to move the games from Gouna back to their home cities even if they do not allow supporters into the ground because of the political situation. "It will be very difficult for us and for Ahly to play in Gouna due to the hot climate and the bad condition of the pitch," Hossam said. "It will be better to play in Cairo, even without supporters, than in Gouna."

Nkana may be less concerned with the venue of the game than whether they can snatch a third rabbit out of a hat again. Bwalya, Simon that is, is confident they can. "I believe we will carry the day," he said. But then, considering what he has done in the competition so far, he would say that, wouldn't he?

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