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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

CAFCL Preview: CR Belouizdad (ALG) vs. Espérance ST (TUN)

A North African derby finishes up Saturday’s slate of fixtures in the CAF Champions League with a duel between Algerian champions CR Belouizdad and Tunisian top club Espérance ST in Group D. Both teams emerged with victories in their opening matches and appear poised to claim passage to the knockout stages based on the struggles of group rivals Zamalek and Al-Merrikh but there is plenty to take from a matchup that features two top clubs in North Africa.

The Stade du 5 Juillet in Algiers hosted an upset on Friday with JS Kabylie’s defeat of defending African champions Wydad AC and CRB supporters will hope the venue proves to be the stage for another victory by an Algerian club. Algerian media and the leadership of CRB are viewing the clash as an excellent opportunity for Le Chabab to prove themselves as a force to be reckoned with after continuing to dominate Algerian domestic football by winning the last three Ligue 1 Professionnelle championships. CRB’s Tunisian coach Nabil Kouki knows the opponent well from his past experience coaching several rivals of Espérance.

Over 40,000 supporters are expected to cheer on a talented Belouizdad team that is led by domestic talents as well as capable foreign imports. Four members of the CRB defense featured regularly for Algeria at the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) hosted by the country with fullbacks Mokhtar Belkhiter and Youssef Laoufi bringing quality on attacks down the wings while center back Chouaib Keddad and goalkeeper Alexis Guendouz also continue to prove their abilities. Houssem Mrezigue and Zakaria Draoui will conduct operations in the midfield with excellent technique and positioning. The attack has a foreign element to it with Nigerian Anayo Iwuala, a former Espérance player, offering plenty of pace and Cameroonian Leonel Wamba is a young striker who is continuing to improve.

Espérance are a titan of African football and will be a formidable foe on Saturday. The perennial Tunisian champions met CRB in last season’s CAFCL group stage and earned a 1-1 draw in Algeria before winning the return match 2-1. However the Blood and Gold are not looking quite as dominant and imposing as they did last season even if their form is improving recently. After a midweek domestic cup match that saw coach Nabil Maâloul rest multiple regulars, Tunisian daily La Presse’s editor Walid Nalouti speculates that Maâloul will start his best team on Saturday.

If Maâloul plays his best lineup then EST will have plenty of experience and quality within the eleven. Yassine Meriah will partner with last week’s match winner Algerian Mohamed Amine Tougaï in the center of defense with attacking left back Mohamed Ben Hamouda driving down the flank. Ivorian Fousseny Coulibaly and Tunisia national team player Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane compliment each other well in the center of midfield with Ben Romdhane a goal scoring threat due to his excellent technique and set piece skill. Libyan Hamdou Elhouni and Sabir Bougrine will attempt to create opportunities for fellow attackers Anice Badri and Riad Benayad who have good scoring instincts in the penalty area.

More on both teams from Algerian and Tunisian media is below in the links.

CR Belouizdad-EST : Voyage en terre connue ! (La Presse)
CAF LDC : Le CRB veut briller face à l’EST (DZ Foot)