Al Ahly is on the cusp of claiming a record-extending ninth CAF Champions League title، while Esperance are keen to overturn a 3-1 first leg deficit The stage is set for the CAF Champions League final return leg between Esperance and Al Ahly at the Stade Olympique de Rades on Friday.
Al Ahly goes into this match carrying a 3-1 lead following the dramatic first leg at the Borg El Arab Stadium، as the Red Deviles managed to come up with a 10-game unbeaten run against Esperance in CAF inter-club competition. Esperance last defeated their opponents seven years ago
In a week dominated by disciplinary sanctions placed on Al Ahly star forward Walid Azarou، tensions have been heightened ahead of Friday’s clash. Al Ahly coach Patrice Carteron will have some huge adjustments to make following the suspension of chief striker Azarou who won two penalties for the Egyptians in the first leg.
The Moroccan was slapped with a two-match ban by Caf.
With six goals in the tournament this season، Azarou’s importance in the team can never be underestimated.
Marwan Mohsen could be used as direct replacement for Azarou but Carteron could now be banking heavily on Walid Soliman for goals as the veteran midfielder has managed four goals in their last three matches.
Soliman struck a brace last week and has won two previous Champions League titles with Al Ahly.
Another absentee for Al Ahly is veteran defender Ahmed Fathy، who lasted just 22 minutes in the first leg and could be replaced by Mohamed Hany who came on for him at last week.
There has been some good news for Carteron after midfielder Ahmed Hamoudi، who also received a knock in the first leg and was substituted، was declared fit for the match in Rades.
Probable Al-Ahly XI: El-Shennawy، Hany، Ayman Ashraf، Saad Samir، Coulibaly، Ashour، Al-Sulaya، Mohareb، Soliman، Hamoudi، Marwan Mohsen Meanwhile، overturning a 3-1 first leg defeat could prove to be a mountain too high for Esperance to climb، but there is a belief in Tunisia that it is possible.
Complicating matters for Esperance coach Mouine Chaabani is the absence of defender Chamseddine Dhaouadi and Cameroonian midfielder Franck Kom.
The duo are suspended، but the good news for Esperance is the return of left-back Ayman Ben Mohamed from injury.
The London-born defender started training this week and is tipped to take back his place in the team.
With striker Anice Badri in the team، Chaabani could be feeling confident of turning the tables on Al Ahly. It will be the fourth time that Esperance and Al Ahly meet in the Champions League this season alone.
Of those meetings، Al Ahly have won twice، while the other match ended in a draw.
Overall the North Africans have locked horns in the Champions League on 17 occasions، with Al Ahly winning six times، while Esperance boast three wins.
Esperance on the other hand have been African champions twice before، their most recent triumph was in 2011 and have previously finished as runners-up on four occasions.
With last week's first leg being dramatic، with Algerian referee Mehdi Abid Charef in the spotlight، a potentially stormy affair is expected in Rades on Friday. Charef awarded three penalties، two after consulting VAR، as well as dished out five yellow cards
CAF have kept the identity of Friday's referee under wraps so far، building a wave of curiosity on who will handle the Rades contest.
In French coach Carteron، Al Ahly has a gaffer who has won the CAF Champions League title before، although it was with TP Mazembe in 2015.