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Thursday, September 28, 2023

CAFCL Semifinal Preview: Petro de Luanda (ANG) vs. Wydad AC (MAR)

Current Botola Pro leaders Wydad AC travel to the Angolan capital city of Luanda for the first leg of their CAF Champions League semifinal clash against Petro Atlético, where they have already encountered a hostile environment that will only grow in intensity. Both teams met in the group stage where Petro took down Wydad 2-1 in the first match played in Luanda before Wydad found revenge with a decisive 5-1 win in Casablanca to finish play in Group D. With well documented struggles on the road, however, Wydad will have plenty of work to do in order to avoid having a substantial deficit to make up for the second leg back home.

Petro will be ready to make things difficult in Luanda and will have a packed Estádio Nacional 11 de Novembro to back their efforts, with fifty buses transporting supporters to fill out the 35,000 maximum attendance allowed in a stadium that holds 50,000 at full capacity. Manager Alexandre Santos, whose contract was just renewed for another season to continue his excellent work, remarked that qualifying for the semifinals is a massive accomplishment for the club but that they are determined to go beyond their previous final four appearance in 2001 and reach the final. The team focused on attacking movements and combinations in training this week so they can put maximum pressure on Wydad.

Os Petroliferos have counted on prominent domestic players and especially their Brazilian contingent for success this season. Leading CAFCL scorer Tiago Azulão has been particularly potent in the attack along with former Porto B attacker Gleison, with goalkeeper Wellington and William Soares also having European club experience to offer. Physical Portuguese center back Pedro Pinto is another veteran whose aerial prowess will be counted on in the back and on attacking set pieces. Angolan full backs Tó Carneiro and Eddie Afonso will look to attack down the flanks and provide crosses with Angolan winger Jaredi’s explosive pace and dribbling another reason why Petro are so dangerous on the wings.

For Wydad, all the pre-match media attention has been on a cold reception given to the Moroccan giants. The team arrived in Luanda with no representatives from Petro there to greet them, leading to delays in the carrying out of Covid-19 tests before Wydad went to the stadium only to find poor conditions that limited their training efforts. In addition, Wydad supporters are fearful of the referee assigned to the match, Algerian Mustapha Ghorbal, due to a perception that he is biased towards Egyptian club Al Ahly and might do all he can to prevent WAC from reaching the final. Manager Walid Regragui for his part did not focus on the distractions by saying that he is only focused on obtaining a manageable result so his team can finish the job back home in front of their fierce support in Casablanca.

Regragui will have to deal with three absences from his squad. Libyan winger Muaid Ellafi is set to miss out due to injury with midfielder Reda Jaadi facing a race for fitness to be available and set piece specialist Jalal Daoudi is suspended as well. However, the key figures will be involved with Yahya Jabrane securing the midfield while center back Achraf Dari, full backs Yahia Attiyat Allah and Ayoub El Amloud as well as goalkeeper Ahmed Reda Tagnouti form a solid defense. With Republic of Congo striker Guy Mbenza providing an aerial goal scoring threat in the front line, it will be interesting to see if Regragui goes with Mbenza’s countryman Juvhel Tsoumou on the opposite wing from Zouheir El Moutaraji. Aymane El Hassouni will also be called upon to offer a threat to goal from his attacking midfield position.

الوداد يخشى مفاجآت لواندا (SNRT News)