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

Following a scoreless first leg in Algiers last week, Algeria’s ES Sétif have a difficult task ahead of them as they travel to Tunisia for the second leg of their CAF Champions League tie against favorites Espérance ST. Sétif did well to keep EST off the board thanks to a Man of the Match performance from goalkeeper Sofiane Khedairia but will have to keep out the illustrious Espérance attack once again while attempting to find a critical away goal. The hosts from Tunisia, meanwhile, will attempt to be more efficient in finishing the opportunities they create.

One factor that brings a bit of intrigue to the second leg is the fact that EST are still serving a penalty for crowd misbehavior, meaning the Blood and Gold will not have their vocal home support to count on. Espérance manager Radhi Jaïdi and his players indicated they are determined to overcome the lack of home fans with Jaïdi pointing out that his team created at least four clear scoring opportunities on the road in the first leg. EST focused less on the technical aspects in training this week and more on dealing with the psychological and mental challenges that await them.

For the team news, it appears that two attackers may be absent for the hosts. Physically imposing forward Kingsley Eduwo created all sorts of problems for Sétif in the first leg but was forced off at halftime due to injury and is guaranteed to be out, meaning Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda will likely fill in. He will join another influential Nigerian attacking force, Anayo Iwuala, who possesses plenty of pace, and likely Libyan national team member Hamdou Elhouni if Moroccan set piece specialist Sabir Bougrine is unable to start due to a nagging injury. Other than the forward line there should be no changes to Jaïdi’s lineup.

Sétif have a tall task ahead of them on Friday but their solid defense and goalkeeping kept the tie within reach, and the visitor know that if they can find a goal in Tunis they will be in excellent shape. Former Libya national team manager Darko Novic has taken over as head coach and the Serbian will be helped by reserve team coach Réda Bendriss, who led the team on an interim basis up to the first leg last weekend. Novic did not make any prediction for the encounter but remarked that his team knows all of the pressure is on Espérance and will do all they can to shake EST’s confidence.

The early stages of the match will be most important for ESS, who know that the hosts will be looking to obtain an early lead to force the visitors out of their defensive shell. Goalkeeper Khedairia will be counted on to deliver a similar performance but has a reliable defensive line in front of him led by veteran and former Algeria national team center back Hicham Belkaroui. The midfield and attack counts on a mixture of young and veteran stars with 35-year-old veteran Abdelmoumene Djabou having the technical skill along with young central midfielder Ahmed Kendouci, while Riad Benayad and Akram Djahnit are solid if unspectacular goal scorers up top.

Mission couperet pour l’ESS à Tunis (L’Expression)

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