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CAFCL Semifinal First Leg Preview: Espérance ST (TUN) vs. Al Ahly (EGY)

An empty Stade Hammedi Agrebi in Tunis will host the first leg of the CAF Champions League semifinal between Tunisian champions Espérance ST and Egypt’s Al Ahly on Friday. After a delay caused by unruly supporters during the second leg of EST’s CAF Champions League quarterfinal victory over JS Kabylie, the hosts were punished by CAF with supporters banned from attending Friday’s first leg. In addition to lacking home support the Tunisian club will have to deal with an Al Ahly team that is in excellent domestic and continental form.

Espérance are not in the best form at the moment after a busy recent schedule that saw the club play two derby matches in close proximity to the CAFCL quarterfinal duel with JS Kabylie. The Blood and Gold came out on top against JSK and domestic rivals Étoile du Sahel but suffered a defeat to Club Africain earlier this week, a result that leaves the champions of the last six Tunisia Ligue 1 Professionnelle seasons in serious danger of falling short this season. Head coach Nabil Maâloul also has to deal with the recent loss of influential attacker Hamdou Elhouni whose presence continues to be missed since suffering an injury in the victory over Étoile.

Maâloul has two other regular starters missing due to injury. Midfielder Ghailene Chaalali continues to be out and now a new name joined the list of injured with goalkeeper and captain Moez Ben Cherifia ruled out for Friday’s match. 23-year-old keeper Mohamed Sebki Debchi is a capable backup who will play while Maâloul has depth in the midfield position but Elhouni’s absence will be missed. Sabir Bougrine and Anice Badri are attacking players who will need to be effective along with striker Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda and regular goal scoring midfielder Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane.

Al Ahly are experiencing victory after victory in recent times and claimed their second domestic trophy of the season with a victory over Pyramids FC in the delayed 2021-22 Egypt Cup final. Head coach Marcel Koller has a full squad to call upon with the club declaring that the squad is fully healthy for Friday’s first leg with the exception of attacker Hussein El Shahat who is questionable. Ahly are currently the leaders of the Egyptian Premier League and have not lost a match since their 5-2 CAF Champions League group stage defeat to South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns on March 11.

El Shahat will probably start on the bench with Koller having plenty of depth in his attack. Kahraba was suspended for a long spell of matches in Egyptian football but the suspension does not apply to the Champions League where he has scored four goals in six matches this season. Kahraba will be flanked by South Africa national team forward Percy Tau and likely Ahmed Abdelkader who should be ready to start following a recent injury. Marwan Attia is the most in form player with Ahly and will operate in the midfield along with Aliou Dieng and Hamdi Fathi. Goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy and central defender Mohamed Abdelmonem lead a strong defense that also features attacking left back Ali Maâloul who is enjoying excellent form.

More on both teams is in the links below.

Esperance, Al Ahly in North African Derby blockbuster (SuperSport)

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