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CAFCL Quarterfinal First Leg Preview: JS Kabylie (ALG) vs. Espérance ST (TUN)

The 2022-23 CAF Champions League quarterfinals kick off with Friday evening’s first leg match between Algeria’s JS Kabylie and reigning Tunisian champions Espérance ST. JSK are the surprise name in the final eight of Africa’s most prestigious club competition, advancing from Group A despite being in the midst of a relegation battle in Algeria’s Ligue 1 Professionnelle and keen to take advantage of a busy week for EST. Espérance and head coach Nabil Maâloul are preparing for the first of three matches in eight days with the Tunisian Classico against rivals Étoile du Sahel taking place in between both legs against JSK.

JSK made it through to the knockout stage of the competition thanks to their determination which went a long way to make up for the Algerian club’s lack of attacking proficiency. The Canaries mustered only four goals in six matches but won all three of their home matches and managed a draw away from home against Angola’s Petro de Luanda that showcased their tenacity and organization. Head coach Miloud Hamdi and JSK defender Fares Nechat emphasized in pre-match comments that the team is feeling no pressure and embracing their role as underdogs.

It appears Hamdi’s lineup is set but there are questions around the goalkeeper position. Abderrahmane Medjadel performed excellently in the group stage but discipline issues appear likely to see him excluded for the crucial first leg after a recent clash with the goalkeeping coach, which may open up an opportunity for 20-year-old local youth product Mohamed Idir Hadid to make his first appearance of the season in the pressure clash. Veteran midfielders Juba Oukaci and Salim Boukhenchouche are healthy and will bring the intensity that JSK need. Kouceila Boualia is the most consistent attacking threat and should start along with veteran Dadi Mouaki who brings industry but inconsistent finishing.

Espérance head coach Nabil Maâloul has the more talented players but fixture congestion presents a bit of a puzzle for the veteran tactician. EST supporters will demand success in the Champions League but also desire a victory against rivals Étoile du Sahel, requiring Maâloul to balance his player selection and make sure his team is physically prepared for all three matches. 4,000 tickets are allocated for EST supporters in Algiers who will be important on Friday considering that the support of JSK will not fill up the Stade du 5 Juillet. The Champions League remains the top priority for Maâloul and EST will send out their best eleven.

Midfielder Ghailene Chaalali and Anis Badri are the notable absences for EST for different reasons but the squad remains strong for Maâloul. Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane and Ivorian Fousseny Coulibaly are the key figures in the midfield with Ben Romdhane’s ability to score goals with his shooting and set piece skills an important factor. Tunisia national team defender Yassine Meriah and Algeria’s Mohamed Amine Tougai form one of Africa’s best center back partnerships while Libya national team star Hamdou Elhouni is the most dynamic threat in the attack. Mohamed Ben Hamida excels at attacking down the flank from his left back position and Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda is likely to play at the striker position over Algerian Riad Benayad.

More on the match is in the links below.

JS Kabylie: Only 18,000 tickets sold


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