The penultimate round of matches in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers will be played over the weekend of 16-18 November, with several heavyweight battles set to take centre stage.
Two of the most eagerly-anticipated matches will be played on Friday night in North Africa: First up, Egypt welcome Tunisia to Alexandria for a Group J clash. Both sides have already secured their AFCON finals berths, but the rivalry runs deep between the Pharaohs and Carthage Eagles, with the former looking to avenge a 1-0 loss in Rades in June last year.
The other major battle on Friday comes from the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, as Morocco welcome Cameroon in Group B. The Indomitable Lions are guaranteed a place in the tournament as hosts, but they need a strong performance to build faith in coach Clarence Seedorf, while the Atlas Lions cannot allow Malawi (just three points behind) the chance to close the gap.
Saturday’s key fixture comes from the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, where South Africa host Nigeria in a crunch Group E match. Bafana Bafana famously beat the Super Eagles 2-0 in Uyo last year, but the West African giants have since taken control of the group and hold a one-point lead over their hosts heading into the game. Third-placed Libya will hope for a Nigeria win or a draw, giving them the chance to close the gap if they win away to already-eliminated Seychelles.
Also on Saturday, Uganda need only avoid defeat at home to Cape Verde to secure qualification from Group L, Namibia and Guinea-Bissau will meet for a vital showdown in Windhoek which could decided the fate of Group K, and ditto for Group C when leaders Mali head to Libreville to take on second-placed Gabon.
Sunday sees 12 matches played across the continent, the pick of which is arguably the meeting of Togo and Algeria in Lome. The North Africans are tied at the top of Group D with Benin, but the Sparrow Hawks (whose coach Claude Leroy has named veteran striker Emmanuel Adebayor in his squad) are just two points back and a home win would turn the tide in their favour.
Sunday will also see Ghana back in action (after their matches against Sierra Leone last month were cancelled due to the latter’s FA being suspended by FIFA) as they take on Ethiopia in a crunch match in Addis Abababa. Black Stars coach James Kwesi Appiah says a win in East Africa will see his side take control of their own fate in Group F, and they famously crushed the Wayla Antelopes 5-0 last year.
The derby of the round will be played in Brazzaville where Congo take on DR Congo – just one point separates the teams on the Group G log as they look to challenge surprise leaders Zimbabwe, who could secure a second successive AFCON qualification if they win away to Liberia. Elsewhere, Guinea (Group H) and Mauritania (Group I) could secure qualification with home wins over Ivory Coast and Botswana respectively.