Receive Tunisian Esperance Al-Mazoum is a heavy guest, which is Al-Ahly of Egypt, in a classic Arab confrontation in the first leg of the semi-finals of the African Champions League, while Moroccan Wydad Athletic hopes to continue the campaign to defend the title when it receives strong candidate Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
The “Sheikh of the Tunisian clubs” does not seem in the best conditions to face an opponent the size of his guest Al-Ahly when they face each other on Friday at the “Hammadi Al-Aqrabi” stadium in Rades, as coach Nabil Maaloul’s team suffers from many absences due to injuries, in addition to African Union sanctions (Enough) that will deprive him of public support.
Veteran goalkeeper Moez Ben Sharifia, Hani Amamou, midfielder Ghilan Al-Shaalali, Libyan winger Hamdo Al-Huni, Algerian midfielder Riyad Bin Ayad and Jordanian Mohamed Abu Zureik “Sharara” will be absent from the match.
The absence will also apply to the fans of the team as a punishment from the Confederation, due to a riot in the stands of Stade Rades in the match between JS Kabylie in the second leg of the quarter-finals.
And Esperance is threatened with losing the Tunisian League title after it dominated it in the past five seasons, as it lost the last two matches in the coronation stage against Sfaxien and traditional rivals Club Africain.
It is expected that Maaloul will push a defensive formation, while relying on quick counterattacks, led by international Mohamed Ali Ben Ramadan, Moroccan Saber Bougren and Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda.
Spirits high for Al-Ahly
Al-Ahly, the champion of the competition ten times (a record), came to the Tunisian capital with a dose of high morale after winning the Egyptian Super title at the expense of Pyramids.
Al-Ahly had reached the elimination rounds with difficulty, following a dramatic scenario in the last round of the group stage at the expense of the Sudanese Al-Hilal, but it succeeded in overcoming the obstacle of Moroccan Raja in the quarter-finals (2-0 and 0-0).
Swiss coach Marcel Kohler will restore the efforts of Amr Al-Souliya, Yasser Ibrahim and Mahmoud Metwally after their recovery, to form an addition to the squad led by goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawy, Tunisian international Ali Maaloul, Malian midfielder Elio Diang and Hussein El-Shahat, in addition to South African strikers Percy Tau and Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim (Kahraba).
Koller revealed that he is looking forward to winning all possible championships, “Champions are what we seek, and we take every step at the right time.” He added, “Al-Ahly recently played strong and difficult matches, and we had to recycle among the players, to avoid injuries, and among the gains of rotation is to give opportunities to players to appear well and gain experience.”
The renewed hero!
Moroccan Wydad hopes that the positive shock represented by the appointment of Belgian coach Sven Vandenbroeck as technical director, instead of Spaniard Juan Carlos Garrido, will bear fruit when he plays a tough confrontation against his guest Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, Saturday, at Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca.
The Belgian is the fourth coach of the “Wydad El Omma” team this season, after Hussein Amouta, the Tunisian Mahdi Al-Nafti and Garrido, whose contract was terminated immediately after the disappointing 1-1 draw with its guest FAR in the classic summit of the Moroccan League, preceded by reaching the semi-finals at the expense of Tanzanian Simba by penalty kicks.
Vandenbroek, 43, has experience in the African continent, especially Morocco, as he previously trained the Cameroon and Zambia national teams, then supervised the training of Tanzanian Simba and the Royal Army.
The coach indicated that he was optimistic before facing Sundowns, “Wydad includes a very distinguished mixture of experienced and youth players, but despite that, I cannot now determine who I need from them.” He continued, “My task is to develop a strategy that suits the team’s capabilities now, and I will not resort to defense only because that will harm me a lot, and I will not go overboard in attacking.”
Midfielder Ismail Al-Metraji joined the list of injured in the red team, which is led by international goalkeeper Ahmed Reda Al-Teknaouti. However, the team includes a squad that maintains great potential with the presence of experienced players such as international full-back Yahya Atiyatallah and midfielder Yahya Gibran.
Sundowns is considered one of the strong candidates for the coronation, thanks to the level’s stability, led by coach Rolani Mokoena, who relied on a very strong attack by scoring 35 goals in the current version (all roles), including five goals against Al-Ahly of Egypt in the group stage, and four against Belouizdad of Algeria in the first leg of the quarter-finals.
Mokoena said, “I have great respect for Wydad,” and added, “Wydad is defending better compared to the previous period, especially since the signing of Vandenbroek. I have studied all the strengths and weaknesses of the team. We know what we want well from the match, but it will not be an easy confrontation for us.” launch”. And he added, “Wydad has very impressive players among its ranks, who attack ferociously, especially on the wings, and are also very good at counterattacks.”
Mamelodi’s squad includes distinguished players, most notably Moroccan defender Abdel Moneim Boutouil, attacking trio Peter Shalulili, Cassius Myloula, Themba Zwane, and midfielder Thabelo Morena.