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CAF Champions League

Esperance, Al Ahly Renew Rivalry

Esperance and Al Ahly will lock horns in a highly anticipated 2010/2021 CAF Champions League semifinal first-leg showdown at the Stade Olympique de Rades on Saturday evening.

Kick-off is at 1600 local time (1500CAT).

The Red Eagles are unrivaled in Africa’s premier club competition, and will be aiming to reach an 12th final in the CAFCL with victory over two-legs.

Al Ahly booked their place in the final four following a 3-1 aggregate win over Mamelodi Sundowns, and will now be eyeing victory over another African football powerhouse.

The first-leg match had ended 2-0 in Cairo and Sundowns were targeting a 3-0 win against record African champions but were held to a 1-1 draw in Pretoria.

Esperance, who are four time African Champions, were made to sweat for a place in the last four by Algeria side CR Belouizdad.

The Blood and Gold advanced to the semi-finals after defeating the Algerian outfit 3-2 on penalties following a 2-2 stalemate on aggregate.

Esperance will be without the services of top defender Houcie Rabii who tested positive of coronavirus on Friday morning.

Rabii featured in only eight games this season, including one for Esperance in the Champions League against MC Alger.

Esperance and Al Ahly  last met in 2018 Africa Champions League finals where the Blood and Gold inflicted a painful 3-0 defeat on Ahly to win the coveted trophy with a 4-3 aggregate victory.

“Al Ahly against Esperance is a classic Champions League game and we all know the importance of the game, given the history and the ambitions of both clubs and their constant desire to win titles,”Ahly’s South African coach Pitso Mosimane told the pre-match news conference.

“I respect Esperance and their head coach and I know the club’s value and the huge fan base that supports Esperance in Tunisia. We respect all our opponents and we are humble. It is very important to be humble but I believe in my players and I believe that we have a chance to win here tomorrow (Saturday).

“We are an experienced team and we always play to win and make our fans happy. We have a huge responsibility towards our history and our fans. We are soldiers and we are defending Al Ahly badge.

“We want to win the semi-finals and reach the final. Our focus tomorrow is on not conceding goals and trying to score to have an advantage ahead of the second leg.”

South African referee Victor Gomes will take charge of the clash with his compatriot Zakhele Siwela serving as one the assistant referees. Zambia’s Gianni Sikazwe will be the video referee for the match.

The reverse fixture will take place in Cairo’s Al-Salam Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021.

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