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CAFCL Quarterfinal Preview: ES Sétif (ALG) vs. Espérance ST (TUN)

The 2021-22 CAF Champions League quarterfinals kick off on Friday with a late first leg matchup between Algerian club ES Sétif and Tunisian champions Espérance ST in Algiers before the remainder of the quarterfinal first legs are played on Saturday. Sétif have been in poor league form this season, sitting in 8th place currently in Algeria’s Ligue 1 Professionnelle, but have been a difficult team to break down in CAFCL play with plenty of veteran players who know they are capable of causing an upset. Espérance clinched first place in Group C and are currently top of their group in Tunisia’s Ligue 1, heading into this tie as the favorites.

Sétif are attempting to maximize their home advantage and after two years of fans remaining out of stadiums, Algerian football authorities are permitting up to 60,000 supporters in the Stade du 5 Juillet on Friday night. After a poor stretch of four straight losses in all competitions, including three Ligue 1 defeats, Sétif earned a 2-1 victory over top-5 side MC Alger on Tuesday to boost their confidence ahead of the clash.

Manager Redha Bendris expressed confidence that his side can get the job done with the home support on their side and with plenty of history between the teams the difference in talent can be negated by the rivalry atmosphere. A financial crisis has been the main trouble for the Algerian club but with nothing to lose in this tie, veterans such as playmaker Abdelmoumen Djabou and forward Akram Djahnit can make the difference with young playmaker Ahmed Kendouci alongside defensive stalwarts including goalkeeper Sofiane Khedairia and Hicham Belkaroui.

Espérance and manager Radhi Jaïdi know they will be facing a determined opponent but the former Bolton Wanderers central defender can count on a healthy squad for the match. Ghailene Chaalali is reportedly back from an injury scare from Sunday’s league victory over US Tataouine to likely partner with fellow central midfielders Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane and Ivorian Fousseny Coulibaly. Chaalali and Ben Romdhane have been the subject of transfer discussion but the management of Espérance have postponed any discussions so that all focus can remain on the CAFCL.

While their opponents are facing financial hardships, Espérance have offered their squad substantial financial rewards if they are able to advance to the semifinals and also have more a few more days of rest with a two-day break given to the squad following their 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Tataouine. In addition to the potent midfield EST possess, look out for Algerian center back anchors Abdelkader Bedrane and Mohamed Tougai and Nigerian forward Anayo Iwuala as well as Moroccan set piece specialist Sabir Bougrine.

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