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

A hostile crowd and a heavily favorited Wydad AC team loaded with talent awaits Algerian club CR Belouizdad when they touch down in Casablanca for their CAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg on Saturday. Despite being a player down for over eighty minutes due to an early red card, Wydad managed to earn a 1-0 victory in the first leg and now CRB have it all to do in front of one of the most vocal home crowds if not the loudest in African football.

Unlike the first leg where they were forced into a defensive mindset due to their numerical disadvantage, Wydad will look to dominate and take advantage of CRB being forced into an attacking approach. Manager Walid Regragui gave his team no room to relax by stating nothing is decided yet even with all the odds appearing in their favor. Wydad have been very difficult to defeat at home and supporters will be expecting a comfortable win. WAC also protested the referee assigned to officiate the match, Egyptian Omar Amin, mentioning that they were not impressed with his performance during a preliminary round defeat to Stade Malien in the 2020-21 CAFCL.

The red card to Jalal Daoudi in the first leg means WAC will be without their set piece specialist in the midfield. The status of Belgian-born midfielder Reda Jaadi is unknown after he missed the first leg with injury but the 27-year-old is a natural replacement for Daoudi and has been quite impressive this season. Other than the issue of who replaces Daoudi in midfield, Wydad are healthy and no changes are expected from the first leg. Striker and leading scorer Guy Mbenza will lead the line with Aymane El Hassouni in a supporting role and wingers Zouheir El Moutaraji and Muaid Ellafi attacking from the flanks.

CRB will be incredibly frustrated at failing to take advantage of Wydad’s early red card in front of a loud home crowd last week, but manager Marcos Paquetá did not criticize his team in the aftermath of the result. The Brazilian attributed the loss more to bad luck and stated that despite several absences in the starting lineup, Le Chabab are capable of pulling off a shock in Casablanca. There will be absolutely nothing to lose for CRB and the reigning Algerian champions can take inspiration from fellow Ligue 1 Professionnelle side ES Sétif, who stunned Tunisia’s Espérance on the road to advance to the semifinals on Friday.

The visitors have plenty of experience and toughness they can count on in defense and the midfield but will need to find a goal somehow. Striker Karim Aribi has a proven goal scoring record in the CAFCL with nine during his last campaign with Tunisian side Étoile du Sahel in the 2019-20 season. However, the giant talisman was quite wasteful in the first leg and forwards Hichem Khalfallah, Kheifeddine Merzougui or both may need to be used to give CRB some extra firepower in the attack. Captain and left back Chamseddine Nessakh’s ability on set piece deliveries will be needed in a major way for a team that can struggle to generate goals.

Le CRB cherche une remontada à Casablanca (L’Expression)

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