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

The second leg of the CAF Champions League semifinal between Egypt’s Al Ahly and Tunisian champions Espérance ST appears to be a mere formality at this point as the teams prepare to clash in Cairo on Friday. Al Ahly possess a 3-0 lead from the first leg in Tunisia and are facing an Espérance team who are without a head coach following the resignation of Nabil Maâloul due to the embarrassing result in Tunis. In addition the Tunisian club have not won at Al Ahly over the last ten meetings between the teams on Egyptian soil.

With Ahly all but qualified for the final, the task in the buildup to the second leg for head coach Marcel Koller and his players was to not look ahead to a potential final against Morocco’s Wydad AC or South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns. Koller praised his players for earning a convincing victory in Tunisia but refused to discuss a potential final matchup or if he is going to rest any of his regular performers for the second leg. Right back Mohamed Hany also emphasized that all preparations this week were towards Friday’s match and achieving another victory against EST.

It appears that goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy will miss the match due to a calf injury which will see veteran and former ENPPI player Ali Lotfi step in for the Egypt national team number one. Lotfi is experienced enough for the occasion after previously playing all three matches for Ahly during their participation at the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup last year. A reliable defensive line that includes Hany and Mohamed Abdelmonem as well as strong central midfielder Aliou Dieng should make the task easier for Lotfi in what will be only his third start of the 2022-23 season. Koller could rotate in some attackers such as Taher Mohamed, Mohamed Sherif and Mohamed Magdy “Afsha” if the Swiss coach chooses to rest any of his regular players.

Meanwhile at Espérance the club is in a bit of a crisis. Former head coach Maâloul stated before the first leg that it was the most important match of the season and he would quit if he did not feel confident in his team. After the disastrous first leg result he remained true to his word and now interim coach Anis Boussaidi is in charge for Friday’s match. Supporters of the club and the Tunisian press are realistic in their expectations with Tunisian outlet La Presse highlighting the presence of young players in the squad who can make an impression on Friday. EST are also struggling in domestic league play as well with a seventh consecutive Tunisian Ligue 1 title looking more and more doubtful.

For his part, Boussaidi declared that “nothing is impossible in football” and wants his players to show their true level not seen last week. Three players who will leave to represent Tunisia at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup following the match are named in the squad, including central midfielder Ghaith Ouahabi, right back Raed Bouchniba and midfielder Malek Mehri. Several veteran players will be absent due to injuries leaving an opportunity for these players to test themselves before leaving for the youth competition in Argentina. It remains to be seen which veteran players Boussaidi will use but there is a Ligue 1 match on Tuesday to consider, making it likely that Friday’s team utilizes few important members.

More on the match is in the links below.

Esperance face uphill battle against Al Ahly (SuperSport)

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