JOHANNESBURG (AFP) Mighty Al-Ahly of Egypt host Al-Ittihad of Libya this weekend battling to avoid an embarrassingly early African Champions League exit for the second successive year. The 'Red Devils suffered a shock elimination in the final qualifying round last May, losing on away goals to African rookies Kano Pillars of Nigeria after draws in Kaduna and Cairo. And a 2-0 last-16 loss to Ittihad in a hostile Tripoli stadium last month has left the club that won the competition a record six times fighting for survival in the chase for one of eight mini-league slots. Ahly aerial weaknesses were brutally exposed by defender Younes al-Chibani and striker Ahmed Zuway as the Libyans seek to improve on a best showing of losing narrowly to Ahly in the semi-finals three years ago. Ahly coach Hossam al-Badry, successor to legendary Portuguese Manuel Jose who masterminded four of the six African triumphs, is confident ahead of the Cairo Stadium showdown. Nothing is impossible for Ahly and the second leg is what really matters with our supporters capable of playing a major role, Al-Badry told Egyptian reporters. His optimism is echoed by veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan, who captained Egypt to a record third consecutive African Nations Cup title in Angola last January. It is not a difficult job as we put in a good first-leg performance only to lose. We spurned seven or eight scoring chances while Ittihad managed to convert the couple of opportunities they got, he said. Serb coach Miodrag Jesic believes a natural inclination to defend in the Egyptian capital may backfire on Ittihad, whose earlier away games produced a win in the Central African Republic and a draw in Morocco. If my team play defensively we might well bow out. We have a very difficult task because our opponents are experienced, powerful and capable of overturning the deficit, he warned. Former champions Ismailia, the other Egyptian contenders, appear to have a much easier task after establishing a 1-0 away lead over Al-Hilal of Sudan via a Mohamed Homos header. The second Sudanese challengers are Al-Merreikh and they appear doomed despite home advantage in sauna-like Omdurman because of a 3-0 hiding from 1994 champions Esperance in Tunisia. JS Kabylie and Entente Setif of Algeria are also former title holders and take first-leg advantages to southern Africa for clashes against Petro Atletico of Angola and Zanaco of Zambia respectively. Kabylie lead 2-0 and should survive their Luanda examination, but Setif must hope a missed penalty in a 1-0 victory will not come back to haunt them against Zanaco, who upset ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast in the previous round. Defending champions TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo are set to advance having built a 1-0 away lead over Djoliba of Mali and Dynamos of Zimbabwe are favoured due to a 4-1 home win over Gaborone United of Botswana. Heartland of Nigeria, runners-up on away goals to Mazembe in the 2009 final, should progress after forcing a 1-1 draw in South Africa against injury-weakened SuperSport United.