OHANNESBURG- Stade Malien will have the edge over Etoile Sahel Sunday when the clubs seek the last CAF Confederation Cup semi-finals place.
The Malians are two points ahead of the Tunisians in Group A as both prepare to finish the mini-league phase with away fixtures.
Shock 2009 Confederation Cup winners Stade are in Tunisia to face runaway group winners and two-time title-holders CS Sfaxien.
And Etoile from coastal resort Sousse face bottom team Saint George of Ethiopia 2,300 metres (7,550 feet) above sea level in Addis Ababa.
A draw will suffice for Stade as a victory and a draw against Etoile in the middle rounds gives them a head-to-head advantage.
Etoile, winners of the 2006 Confederation Cup and runners-up two years later, can squeeze through if they collect maximum points and Stade are beaten.
Sfaxien have already defeated Stade in Mali and a draw at Etoile last weekend came after four consecutive victories under Dutch coach Ruud Krol.
Impressive CAF form by the club from Mediterranean industrial city Sfax helped Krol get the nod as Tunisia coach for an upcoming World Cup play-off against Cameroon after Nabil Maaloul quit.
The ability of the 1970s Ajax Amsterdam and Netherlands defender to improvise will be tested in a game moved to Tunis because the Sfax pitch is being relaid.
Suspensions rule out Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Mahmoud Ben Salah, Maher Hannachi, Ferjani Sassi and Ali Maaloul, leaving Krol to find five replacements.
All the absentees except Ben Salah have scored in the second-tier CAF club competition this season, with Ben Youssef snatching the late winner against Stade in Bamako.
“The hardest part is yet to come,” admitted coach Pascal Janin to a Stade squad that seemed doomed with one point from three games before defeating Etoile and Saint George.
Lamine Diawara was the late match-winner in both games for Malien, who started this year in the CAF Champions League only to be demoted after losing a final-round qualifier.
Sfaxien goalkeeper Rami Jeridi kept clean sheets in two previous home group games and prevented Etoile winning last weekend with a late penalty save.
Etoile take a goal-shy strike force to the Ethiopian capital, scoring just three in 450 minutes with two coming from Issam Jebali.
“We must defeat Saint George and hope Sfaxien do us a favour,” France-born Etoile coach Denis Lavagne told Tunisian reporters.
Title favourites TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and CA Bizertin of Tunisia have secured the top two Group B places.
But who finishes first remains in the balance with Mazembe playing at FUS Rabat of Morocco Saturday and Bizertin at bottom side Entente Setif of Algeria.
Mazembe, the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup runners-up to Inter Milan, hold at two-point advantage over Bizertin, who lifted the African Cup Winners Cup 25 years ago.