Holders Esperance and Egyptian side Al Ahly are
the favourites to reach the final of the African Champions League after this
weekend's semi-final, second-leg ties.
Tunisian’s Esperance drew 0-0 with TP Mazembe in DR Congo in their first leg, while Ahly shared a six-goal draw away to Nigerian side Sunshine Stars.
goals put Ahly in a strong position to reach their ninth final.
For Esperance, they have the benefit of key players returning to fitness.
Ghana defender Harrison Afful is available again and midfielders Youssef Msakni and Karim Aouadhi seem set to be fit to play after injuries.
In contrast, TP Mazembe already know they will not be at full strength. Zambia defender Stoppila Sunzu is suspended and compatriots Rainford Kalaba and Hichani Himonde will undergo late fitness tests.
Lubumbashi Ravens know that a score draw would be enough to put them through on
the away goals rule and they will look to captain Tresor Mputu and fellow
midfielder Mbwana Samata, who have scored six goals each in Africa this season,
The match will be watched by a crowd restricted to 25,000 because of security concerns.
Ahly in driver’s seat
In the other
semi-final, Ahly are firmly in the driver’s seat. They know that Sunshine Stars
will have to attack and that could leave the Nigerians exposed and vulnerable
at the back.
Ahly coach Hossam Al Badry is preparing for Sunshine to come forward.
-I expect our opponents to attack from the start as a draw does not favour them. Sunshine have not lost hope of reaching the final and I anticipate they will fight to the end.
Behind closed doors
The match will
be played at the June 30 stadium, a venue the Cairo club will be using for the
first time and which will be virtually empty with the team forced once again to
play behind closed doors.
No spectators have been permitted at Ahly home fixtures after more than 70 died in post-match rioting after the Cairo club lost a domestic league match against bitter rivals Al Masry last February in Port Said.
Gbenga Ogunbote blames a pre-first leg strike over unpaid signing-on fees for a
below-par showing in which his side constantly played catch-up, wiping out 2-0
and 3-2 deficits.
-We trained for only four days and that is not enough when you are facing Ahly.
-My boys were
unable to raise their game at crucial periods and I hope for a much better
showing in Cairo.
The final will be staged over two legs during November with a two-week break between fixtures and the champions pocket $1.5m plus a place at the 2012 Club World Cup in Japan.