CAF Champions League Preview: North African Teams Dominate Line-up as The Champions League Takes Center Stage
CAF Champions League take place today with three North African teams participating.
North African dominance will be the major talking point as the CAF Champions League semi-finals take center stage to determine which two teams proceed to the final.
Once again, any doubts about the continuous prominence and dominance North African clubs enjoy in the continental club flagship ought to be put to rest considering three of the four clubs in the semi-final line-up, one team shy of being a full north African affair.
Other than surprise semi-finalists Primeiro de Agosto, Egypt’s Al Ahly, Tunisia’s duo Esperance and ES Tunis are all vying for a place in the final of this year’s CAF Champions League.
After beating Etoile du Sahel to qualify for the semis, Tunisia’s side Esperance, ranked second in Africa, will take on Angolan minnows Primeiro de Agosto in the first semi final clash.
With two CAF Champions League titles in their name, Esperance are clear favorites in the eyes of bookmakers but Agosto is not a team to write off that easily.
They are a team on a steady rise and 24 Angolan league outings without a loss are a testament they have the resolve and quality to compete at the highest level.
Agosto might have won the last three domestic Girabola titles in Angola but no one could imagine they would go this far in the continental competition.
They eliminated DR Congo’s TP Mazembe and are flying high in their maiden semi-final appearance. For their coach Zoran Manojlovic, the semifinal is just the beginning.
“We will reach the final of the Champions League,”
“My players are very humble and very hard workers and we know more or less the strengths and weaknesses of Esperance.” the Serbian Manojlovic told AFP.
For Esperance, this will be a test to see if they have what it takes to go the whole way. Their top scorer last season might have gone quiet but the team has a new marksman in Anis Badry.
Badry has scored six goals in their run to the final and will surely be among the ones to watch in the first semi-final fixture.
In the other encounter, Egyptian giants Al Ahly, the most successful club in the history of the competition, will host rivals Entente Sportive Sètifienne at Cairo International Stadium in the first of their doubleheader.
They may fancy their chances as favorites, but ES Setif have over time proved they are not push-overs. The two-time Champions League winners eliminated defending champions Wydad Casablanca in the quarterfinals, something that has put Al-Ahly gaffer Patrice Carteron in a cautious mood.
“We are prepared for a strong confrontation against an opponent who managed to reach the semis after defeating the current title holders Wydad of Morocco,” Patrice Carteron told Egyptian publication Al Ahram.
“We’ve studied the Algerian team well. It is a good team with talented players and also an efficient coach, but we have big ambitions to win with a good score in Cairo to make our mission easier in the return match.”
With Marwan Mohsen, Mido Gaber, Mohamed Naguib, Saad Samir, and Amr El-Sulya all ruled out with injuries, Al Ahly will have to work harder if they are to reach the final this year.
The return leg of their tie will take place at ES Setif’s Stade 8 Mai 1945 on October 28.