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By ESPN Staff

Holders Etoile Sahel face tough tie in Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG, April 24 (Reuters) - Holders Etoile Sahel face a difficult tie away in Zimbabwe on Sunday when they continue the defence of their African Champions League crown against Dynamos in Harare.

The Tunisian side, who won their first Champions League title last year, are among eight former winners of Africa's top club prize seeking to advance past the third round and into the group phase, which kicks off in July.

Etoile's French coach Bertrand Marchand, who has turned down the chance to take over as Tunisia coach, can choose from a full strength squad for the first time in months but will be mindful that Dynamos beat them 1-0 in the group phase a decade ago.

Clubs from north Africa are likely again to dominate in the last knockout round with a real chance all eight qualifiers for the group phase will come from Arabic-speaking countries.

Last year's runners-up Al Ahli play their first game after two successive byes in previous rounds when they meet Platinum Stars from South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday.

Coach Manuel Jose said he expected a tough game but that Al Ahli were intent on a winning start against their inexperienced opponents.

The Cairo giants clinched the Egyptian premier league for a fourth successive year on Monday and are likely to be in celebratory mood.

Zamalek, who went second in the Egyptian championship on Tuesday, have a home tie in Cairo on Saturday against Angola's InterClube.

Libya's Al Ittihad, semi-finalists last year along with Al Hilal of Sudan, have a home match against three times winners TP Mazembe Englebert.

Al Hilal host South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns, whose domestic form has been on an upturn after a disappointing start to their league season.

'It's very important to get a result considering we want to go as far as possible in the competition,' Sundowns midfielder Brent Carelse said on the eve of his team's departure.

'They are a tough team with experience. We will give it our best, to get something back home to give ourselves advantage in the return leg.'

Tunisia's Club Africain will be without striker Oussema Sellami for their match away to Enyimba of Nigeria, title winners in 2003 and 2004, on Sunday.

The return legs will be played on the weekend of May 9-11.