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

The odds continue to be against JS Kabylie in the CAF Champions League but the Algerian club will attempt to continue its surprise run in the competition when they travel to Tunis for a quarterfinal second leg match against Tunisian champions Espérance ST on Saturday. Espérance hold a 1-0 lead following their first leg victory in Algeria and expect to qualify for the semifinals but the second leg arrives after a busy stretch for the Blood and Gold who will be missing a couple of players due to injury.

The performances were not outstanding this week for Espérance but the results were positive for head coach Nabil Maâloul following the 1-0 first leg victory last weekend as well as another 1-0 victory against rivals Étoile du Sahel in Tunisia’s Ligue 1. However the hero of the victory against Étoile, Algerian striker Riad Benayad, was forced off due to an injury that was revealed to be torn knee ligaments. Libya national team winger Hamdou Elhouni is also out for around a month giving Maâloul limited options in his attack.

Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda, author of the match winner in Algiers last week, is set to retain his place at the top of the formation for EST and veteran attacker Anis Badri will return from a spell out of the team to replace Elhouni. Despite the injuries in attack the defense and midfield is reliable for Maâloul. Tunisia national team midfielder Ghailene Chaalali is reportedly doubtful but Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane and Fousseny Coulibaly are regular contributors who will likely play underneath creative midfielder Sabir Bougrine. Central defenders Yassine Meriah and Mohamed Amine Tougai along with goalkeeper Moez Ben Chérifia form a highly experienced defensive group.

JS Kabylie are a club that continues to be in the midst of a crisis despite their success in the CAF Champions League. The Canaries remain in the relegation zone of Algeria’s Ligue 1 Professionnelle and head coach Miloud Hamdi appears to be on his way out. Hamdi’s dismissal could be announced after Saturday’s second leg according to Algerian sports news outlet Compétition with a defeat on April 4 against fellow relegation battlers Paradou AC appearing to be the result that sealed his fate.

Despite the circumstances there remains a decent opportunity for JSK to pull off an upset against a tired and weakened EST team. However the major difficulty for the club from Tizi Ouzou is producing goals and the Espérance defense is an intimidating obstacle considering the presence of several national team players. Burkinabe striker Mohamed Lamine Ouattara has only one goal this season and leading scorer Dadi Mouaki has been quite wasteful with poor form that saw Hamdi turn to young striker Massinissa Nait in the first leg. Midfield is the strength of the JSK team and Kouceila Boualia is the most creative player in the group that also includes determined leaders in Salim Boukhenchouche and Juba Oukaci.

More on the match is in the links below.

CAF CL : La JS Kabylie se prépare à Tunis (DZ Foot)
JSK : Hamdi accepte enfin de partir (Competition.dz)

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