JOHANNESBURG, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Champions Egypt should fill one of the last three places at next year's African Nations Cup finals, needing only to avoid defeat at home to Botswana in qualifying Group Two on Saturday.
A shock win for their southern African opponents would put Botswana through to their first Nations Cup finals appearance.
But the tie in Cairo will be overshadowed by the three-way race for the qualifying berths in Group Nine where just a point separates Mali, Togo and Benin.
All three can win top place and qualify while Benin could finish second and still also go through to the finals as one of the best placed runners-up.
Mali and Togo are both on nine points and although Mali will finish above Togo on a head-to-head count if there is a draw in Friday's match between the two in Lome, the deadlock could allow unfancied Benin to come from behind and win the group.
Benin, with eight points, are away to Sierra Leone needing to win on Friday to have any chance of qualifying for next January's finals in neighbouring Ghana.
Togo are expected to have Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor back for his first run in the team since March. Adebayor is still claiming outstanding bonus payments after Togo's qualification for the last year's World Cup finals and boycotted recent matches.
But he told officials he would make himself available for the game.
His return has prompted Mali coach Jean Francois Jodar to declare: "We should not fear Adebayor because if we tremble because of him then what will happen if we face the likes of (Didier) Drogba, (Samuel) Eto'o and others in the Nations Cup finals."
Mali are at full strength for the match with Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute leading their attack.
Both Friday's games kick off at 1330 GMT.
Egypt will be without injured Mido for the match against Botswana but have Hamburg striker Mohamed Zidan back after he missed their last match in Burundi.
Mauritania host Burundi in the other Group Two match in Nouakchott on Saturday.
Already qualified along with hosts Ghana are Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia and Zambia.