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CAFCL Preview: Al-Merrikh (SDN) vs. CR Belouizdad (ALG)

Benghazi, Libya will be the setting for Friday’s opening fixture in the third matchday of the 2022-23 CAF Champions League group stage with Al-Merrikh of Sudan hosting Algerian champions CR Belouizdad in a Group D clash. It is a must win for Merrikh who have only one point from their opening two matches and must make the most of the home fixture despite being forced to host in Libya due to an inadequate home stadium by CAF standards. CRB suffered a heartbreaking defeat to group leaders Espérance ST last weekend but are still in decent shape and believe they can earn maximum points away from home.

Merrikh played to a scoreless draw against Egypt’s Zamalek last weekend for their first point in Group D play but it is now or never if the Omdurman club want to be a serious threat to finish in a top-2 position. Coach Heron Ferreira’s team improved their attacking play somewhat against Zamalek but still failed to find their first goal of the group stage, a situation that is increasing the criticism directed towards the Brazilian tactician. One of his Brazilian signings, striker Paulo Sérgio, is not receiving praise and reports are the journeyman goal scorer will be benched.

The defense has been excellent so far, however, with another of Ferreira’s signings performing well. Alex Silva is proving to be an excellent addition to the team known as “Mars” and adds plenty on defense and attack from his right back position. Defense is a strong department for Merrikh that also includes Sudan national team goalkeeper Mohamed Mustafa and veteran central defender Mustafa Karshom. Look for Ugandan forward Eric Kambale to maybe get an opportunity up top in place of Paulo Sérgio while young, rising Sudan national team star Al-Jazoli Nooh is also an option to receive services from creative Brazilian playmaker Matheuzinho.

CR Belouizdad controlled the majority of last week’s clash with Tunisia’s Espérance but a splendid moment of quality from Libyan winger Hamdou Elhouni doomed Le Chabab to a difficult defeat in front of their home support. CRB head coach Nabil Kouki stated he believed the performance was fine from his team but that his players need to improve in the final third and take advantage of the opportunities that arrive. Midfielder Zakaria Draoui agreed with his coach and said the defeat was difficult for the team to accept considering it was a match where a victory would have confirmed CRB’s status as one of Africa’s best clubs.

Draoui told the team’s supporters to be patient and he will be key to the midfield along with the player who won CAF’s award for Best Player at the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN), Houssem Mrezigue. Cameroonian striker Leonel Wamba and quick Nigerian attacker Anayo Iwuala have shown signs of their capabilities but need to produce a better final product when chances come their way. A solid defensive unit will make CRB difficult to break down for a Merrikh side that already has enough trouble in the attack, making this a match where CRB is favored but must be at their best when it comes to finishing.

More on the match from Arabic media is below.

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