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CAF Confederation Cup Semifinal Second Leg Preview: USM Alger (ALG) vs. ASEC Mimosas (CIV)

Following a 0-0 result in the first leg played in Ivory Coast, Algeria’s USM Alger are the favorites to advance on Wednesday when they host Ivorian champions ASEC Mimosas for the second leg of their CAF Confederation Cup semifinal clash at the Stade 5 du Juillet in Algiers. USMA were content to defend and put numbers behind the ball in the first leg but accomplished their mission to determine the outcome in front of their passionate home supporters. ASEC failed to find the goal at home and know their task is difficult in Algeria but also understand that a goal away from home could make all the difference.

USM Alger have lost their last three matches but the team is in high spirits considering how close they are to playing for a continental trophy. Head coach Abdelhak Benchikha and his valuable experience remain an important factor in the favor of USMA as seen by the manner in which his team achieved their objective in Ivory Coast. Benchikha expressed his satisfaction with how the players are coming together for the mission of winning the competition and USMA will have up to 60,000 supporters in the Stade 5 du Juillet after Algeria’s Ministry of Youth and Sports approved the sale of an additional 20,000 tickets.

USMA will count on several players who represented Algeria at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) earlier this year. Striker Aymen Mahious is the most well known after leading the CHAN in scoring but Zineddine Belaid will lead the defense from his center back position while Oussama Chita is the star of the midfield. Right back Saadi Radouani is continuing to play an important role after scoring in both legs of the quarterfinal victory over Morocco’s ASFAR. In a match that could be decided by fine margins, USMA’s ability to score on set pieces is something to focus on from the perspective of both teams.

ASEC will feel like they missed an opportunity to take advantage of their dominance in the first leg as well as the favorable conditions. Karamoko Sankara appeared to put ASEC into the lead in the first half of the first leg but his goal was ruled offsides by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) while USMA goalkeeper Oussama Benbout did enough to keep a clean sheet. ASEC head coach Julien Chevalier put on a face of optimism in his pre-match comments, stating that the match is “50-50”. Considering their domination of the first leg, ASEC will approach the second leg with the goal of attacking to find an away goal that would give the Les Mimos the edge if there is a scoring draw in Algiers.

In a preview of the match from 7Info.ci, author Maria-Nellie Kesse consulted the coach of Ivory Coast Ligue 1 side Stella Club, Rigo Gervais, who had an interesting perspective:

“The Algerians will immediately want to take the yellows and blacks by the throat. The first 20 minutes of the match will therefore be very decisive because these teams believe that it is difficult for sub-Saharan clubs to master their environment.” -Rigo Gervais, coach of Stella Club

The experience Chevalier has to call upon in his defense will be important for ASEC with defender Wonlo Coulibaly and goalkeeper Charles Folly ready for the challenge. Folly performed well at the CHAN with Ivory Coast including in a knockout stage defeat to Algeria in front of a hostile environment. What will be essential for ASEC is how their attack performs because it can be quite inconsistent at this level. Sankara looked eager to thrive on the occasion last week and will be supported by wide attacker Aubin Kramo and Paçome Zouzoua while Mohamed Zougrana and veteran Essis Aka add further defensive strength from their midfield positions.

More from Algerian and Ivorian media on the match is in the links below.

Coupe de la CAF : les Mimos dos à dos (Africanews)
USMA : Le «Général», l’atout majeur (Compétition.dz)
L’Asec Mimosas condamné à l’exploit (Sport-Ivoire.ci)

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