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CAFCL Preview: Al-Merrikh (SDN) vs. Espérance ST (TUN)

Friday’s action in the CAF Champions League will determine who is likely to qualify out of a tightly contested Group D and Sudanese club Al-Merrikh must win when they host Tunisian champions Espérance ST in the early match. Merrikh, who will host the match in Benghazi, Libya due to lacking a suitable venue, are in last place on four points but can remain in contention for a top-two spot with a win on Friday. A draw or a victory will secure group leaders Espérance’s quarterfinal position.

Merrikh are not feeling too much pressure considering the circumstances the club has to deal with. Manager Ricardo Heron and his team have done well to remain in contention despite being forced to host their home fixtures in Libya and supporters are generally satisfied with the performance according to Sudanese media. Merrikh have only conceded two goals in their four matches so far but only scored once, with a couple of late goals leaving them on the verge of elimination.

Key defender Mustafa Karshoum will be suspended for Friday’s clash due to yellow card accumulation, leaving Salah Nemer as the likely candidate to partner with Hamza Dawood in the center of defense. Heron’s important decisions will be in the attack where Merrikh continue to struggle, particularly with regards to the poor form of the fellow Brazilian he brought in to lead the line. Paulo Sérgio scored the team’s only goal in the group stage and Heron will likely stick with him but Ugandan Eric Kambale is an option from the bench if needed. Alex Silva is an important player at the right back position while attackers Matheuzinho, Colombian Brayan Angulo and Sudan national team player Ramadan Agab will need to play well if selected.

Espérance came under controversy this past week after a drug test conducted after their first matchup against Merrikh revealed that defender Houssem Dagdoug tested positive for a banned substance. Taraji escaped any sort of severe punishment despite Dagdoug’s participation in two matches and regular left back Mohamed Amine Ben Hamida will be back from yellow card suspension to provide an attacking presence.

Coach Nabil Maâloul will not make too many changes to his eleven for the match. Anice Badri and Hamdou Elhouni are the main scoring threats from the wing and it will be either Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda or Algerian Riad Benayad who leads the line and creates space for Elhouni and Badri to thrive. Yassine Meriah is the defensive leader in the center of defense and an experienced midfield led by Tunisia national team players Ghailene Chaalali and Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane is something Maâloul can count on for success.

Expected Esperance lineup from Nessma Sport

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