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CAF Champions League

Can Darko Novic Guide ES Setif Past Al Ahly?

Algerian giants ES Setif travel to the tricky  Al-Salam Stadium on Saturday to face Al Ahly in the first leg of the CAF Champions League semi-final.

The big question however remains whether Serbian gaffer Darko Novic can show his tactical acumen to mastermind an away win.

ES Setif booked their place in the last four of the prestigious competition after eliminating Tunisian giants Esperance de Tunis and will now be eyeing victory over the defending champions.

Novic faced Al Ahly in the 2007 season as he was an assistant coach Libyan club Al Ittihad when they lost against Ahly, also in the semis.

“Of course, now is totally different match, with a totally different environment,” said Novic.

“I am very happy because I will face the biggest club and get more experience for myself. The level is so high, teams are very well prepared.”

In-form striker Riad Benayad and Mohamed Ali Moncer are expected to play a significant role in pushing Al Ahly for goals.

But the hosts, who finished second in their group and squeezed through into the quarters with a 3-2 aggregate win over Raja Club Athletic, are expected to come all out to try and make the home advantage count.

“We are back to the big stage of the Champions League. Big game against ES Setif, the team that eliminated Esperance (in the quarter-finals) and that shows the kind of opponent that we are playing against,” Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane said.

“They didn’t defeat Esperance in Algeria but they did it in Tunisia. The team is fearless. They play strong and attack home and away.

“They are a well-coached team. Their goalkeeper is super, in relation to the games we’ve watched.

“We do our homework and follow our principles with my tactical team. I’ve been working with them for the past 8 years. We respect our opponent and we look at a number of games they played and we also look on their individual players.

“Small details matter. Al Ahly have been in the semi-finals many times. We know how to play those kind of games. So, I expect my team to use their experience in tomorrow’s game. We have no excuses.”

The home side will also look to the experience of strikers Percy Tau and Mohamed Sherif to torment the ES Setif defenders.

This will be the fourth continental meeting between the two sides and Setif boats of a slight edge, having won two and drawn one of those games while Ahly have won once.



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