Difficult confrontations for Al-Ahly and Wydad, and a Tunisian Clasico between Esperance and Etoile du Sahel

February 22, 2024
Difficult confrontations for Al-Ahly and Wydad, and a Tunisian Clasico between Esperance and Etoile du Sahel

Arab clubs are seeking to boost their chances of reaching the quarter-finals of the African Football Champions League, whose competitions will resume on Friday after a long hiatus, due to the holding of the Nations Cup finals, in which the host Ivory Coast was crowned. In the most prominent matches of the fifth round, Al-Ahly of Egypt will meet its host Medeama of Ghana, while Esperance will face Etoile du Sahel in a purely Tunisian Clasico, and Wydad of Morocco will be the guest of Botswana's Gwaneng.

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The group stage wheel returns in African Champions League For rotation on Friday. All eyes are on Al-Ahly of Egypt, the defending champion, and its runner-up, Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco, who are going through a delicate stage in the competition, while the fifth and penultimate round of the group stage stands out in the Tunisian “Classico” between Etoile du Sahel and its guest, Esperance.

With the exception of ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast, which secured its qualification to the round of sixteen, all teams have varying chances of qualifying.

A difficult journey for Al-Ahly in Ghana

Al-Ahly, which is seeking to retain the title and enhance its current record (11 titles), will host Ghana's Medeama on Friday at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi in Group Four.

Al-Ahly leads the standings with six points, a point ahead of Algeria’s CS Belouizdad and Tanzania’s Young Africans, and Medeama is fourth with four points.

The options of the Swiss coach of Al-Ahly, Marcel Kohler, were reduced after the absence of a number of players, led by Mahmoud Abdel Moneim “Kahraba”, due to special circumstances. The injury will also exclude goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy, Ahmed Abdel-Qader, Marawan Attia, and Malian Aliou Dieng.

He will rely on veteran names such as Tunisian Ali Maaloul and South African Percy Tau.

Al-Ahly tied negatively with Belouizdad last week in a postponed match from the fourth round, and Kohler indicated that the result was satisfactory. “There are two matches remaining in the group, and our goal is to achieve victory to secure the lead.”

Medeama club president Moses Armah vowed to the Egyptian team, “We will shock Ghanaians with our victory over Al-Ahly, and we will guarantee qualification to the next round against Algeria.”

In the same group, CS Belouizdad hopes to take a big step towards the knockout rounds, after undergoing a difficult trip to the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, to face Young Africans on Saturday.

His player Abdul Raouf bin Ghaith said, “We will throw all our weight into Tanzania. We have every chance of qualifying. We have the intention of returning with a positive result from a difficult field.”

Wydad and the last chance

Moroccan Wydad, which is going through a critical period that it has not witnessed in recent years, is aware that there is no room for error when it travels to Botswana to face Jwaneng Galaxy on Saturday in Francis Town in Group Two.

Contrary to its habit, Wydad is at the bottom of the standings with three points. He must win his last two matches and wait for the rest of the results to determine his fate by obtaining second place behind ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast, who leads with 10 points. Simba of Tanzania comes second with five points and Guanyeng third with four points.

The arrest of Casablanca club president Said Naciri on suspicion of his involvement in a huge drug smuggling case caused an uproar at the team level, as the results in recent months did not live up to the expectations of its fans, and it fell to fourth place in the local league standings, in addition to the announcement of its resignation by its veteran coach, Faouzi Bizertin. Following the loss to Shabab Al-Salem, before retreating from it, the team then defeated its guest, RS Berkane, on Saturday, with a clean goal, which restored some balance to it.

The Moroccan team, which reached at least the quarter-finals in the previous eight seasons and won the title twice, seeks revenge on the team that stunned it at the start of the competitions in Casablanca.

Bizertin will be missing Algerian full-back Elias Chetti and midfielder Jamal Eddine Harkas due to injury, while the continental squad will feature new names, most notably the returning Ismail Al-Haddad and Nigerian top scorer Adi Agounis, while international full-back Yahya Attia Allah has left the team for Russia's Sochi.

The team captain, Yahya Gibran, expressed his readiness to help the team, denying the rumor of his departure. “A fateful match awaits us on Saturday, and we are fully focused on it in order to win qualification and make the Wydad nation happy.”

The Moroccan club demanded that the match be postponed for an additional day, according to Moroccan reports, due to the postponement of the team’s marathon flight to Francistown via Johannesburg, due to the team’s plane not obtaining permission to enter Botswana’s airspace.

Tunisian classic between Etoile and Esperance

The Hamadi Al-Aqrabi Stadium in Rades will host an all-Tunisian summit between Etoile du Sahel and its guest, Esperance, in the third group.

There is no room for the two teams to make any mistakes, as the loser in the match will have their hopes greatly reduced, as Angolan Pietro de Luanda leads the group (8 points), ahead of Esperance (5 points), Al-Najm (4 points), and Al-Hilal of Sudan is fourth (4).

Esperance will have a different artistic identity in Africa, after the Portuguese Miguel Cardoso took over supervision of the team instead of Tariq Thabet, and the “Bab Souika” team also supported its ranks with the duo of Togolese midfielder Roger Ahulu and Congolese winger Andre Bukaya. Cardoso also counts on Brazilian striker Rodrigo Rodriguez and playmaker Yann Sass.

The “Jawharat Al Sahel” team, which won the title in 2007, will miss Mohamed Amin Bin Omar due to injury, which confuses coach Ahmed Al-Ajlani’s calculations, as he will rely on his regular players, especially Osama Obaid, Yassin Al-Sheikhawi, and Cameroonian Jacques Mbe.

Al Hilal seeks to boost its chances and shuffle the cards when it hosts the Angolan team at the Benina Martyrs Stadium in Libya.

Egyptian Pyramids cling to hope despite the difficulty of their task when they visit Congolese Mazembe on Saturday in Lubumbashi.

In the same group, Mauritanian Nouadhibou hosts Mamelodi Sundowns, the strong South African club, at Sheikh Bedia Stadium in Nouakchott.

Mazembe leads the group with seven points and the difference in matches against Sundowns, and the two Arab teams are in the last two places with four points.

France 24/AFP

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