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CAFCL Quarterfinal Preview: CR Belouizdad (ALG) vs. Wydad AC (MAR)

The champions of Algeria and Morocco’s domestic league face off in Algiers to wrap up Saturday’s quarterfinal first leg fixtures in the CAF Champions League when CR Belouizdad host Wydad AC at the Stade 5 du Juillet. Both teams are currently top of their leagues and the tie figures to be clash of CRB’s excellent defensive capabilities and Wydad’s explosive attack. Up to 60,000 supporters will be allowed in to support Algeria’s top club for the first leg.

CRB manager Marcos Paquetá expressed his gratitude for the allowance of supporters into the stadium and his hopes that the home support can galvanize Le Chabab. At the same time the Brazilian coach stated that his team has had little time to recover from a difficult top of the table clash in Algeria’s Ligue 1 where his side edged second placed JS Saoura on Monday. The most important goal for the hosts is maintaining a clean sheet and preventing Wydad from scoring away goals due to having an attack that has had moments of inconsistency this season.

The hosts’ defense will be anchored by center backs Sofiane Bouchar and Chouaib Keddad while veteran left back and captain Chamseddine Nessakh provides excellent service through his crosses and set piece deliveries. Physical striker Karim Aribi will need to give the Wydad defense issues with his strength and ability to get on the end of balls from out wide and Kheireddine Merzougui has shown flashes of his ability to impact matches, particularl when coming off the bench. Housseyn Selmi is CRB’s influential presence in midfield with his stability and capabilities on the ball.

Wydad are on an eight-match unbeaten streak in all competitions and manager Walid Regragui is looking to get a precious away goal in Algiers before his team attempts to finish the job in Casablanca next week. However, WAC have been very poor away from home this season in league play and away victories over Zamalek and Angolan side Sagrada in the CAFCL group stage were against teams in poor form. Defender Yahia Attiyat Allah and midfielder Reda Jaadi will likely be unavailable for the first leg due to injury but Ivorian center back Cheick Comara is making a late push to return to the squad.

The attack is where WAC have thrived this season with a multitude of options to make things difficult for the CRB defense. Republic of Congo national team striker Guy Mbenza is still tied at the top of the scoring chart in Morocco’s Botola Pro despite having yet to tally in league play in 2022 but found goals during the international break for Congo in a friendly as well as in domestic cup play against lower league opposition. He and Zouheir El Moutaraji are the main goal threats while Libyan winger Muaid Ellafi and full back Jalal Daoudi are dangerous with their ability to create deadly opportunities from out wide.

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