JSK take aim at last four
© AFP

JS Kabylie will become the first side to confirm participation in this year’s CAF Champions League semi-finals with a win at the weekend, but they would likely be among the first to admit qualification will probably come later in the campaign.

The Algerians take a 100 per cent record to Cairo for a return meeting with Al Ahly of Egypt after an ill-tempered Group B game a fortnight ago, littered with incident and drama. JS Kabylie held out for a 1-0 win after Ahly had a late claim for an equaliser turned away, but the fevered nature of the encounter is likely to be lifted up a notch in Sunday’s return fixture.

The game at the Cairo International Stadium is one of four on the Champions League menu this weekend. In Group A, Esperance can re-take top place from holders TP Mazembe Englebert when the two sides meet at the November 7 Stadium at Rades, on the outskirts of Tunis. Esperance lost their lead a fortnight ago when they were beaten by Mazembe’s come-from-behind effort in the clash between the two strong contenders in Lubumbashi.

Algeria’s Entente Setif go in search of their first win in the group when they host Dynamos of Zimbabwe on Friday in the other Group A match. In Owerri, Nigeria, both hosts Heartland FC and Egypt’s Ismaili must win their Group B clash on Sunday to keep alive hopes of progressing to the last four.

Certainly there will be pressure, but I don’t care.
JSK boss Alain Geiger ahead of the trip to Cairo

JSK’s visit to Egypt overshadows all the other games, though, and is set to add another chapter to the rich rivalry between Algeria and Egypt, which was so passionately played out during last year’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers. “Certainly there will be pressure, but I don’t care,” insisted JSK’s coach Alain Geiger, a former Swiss international.

“You just have to know how to manage it and why not reverse it squarely onto the shoulders of our opponents? We can cause them enormous problems [in front of their own fans] and take the pressure off us,” he said as JSK arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, well ahead of the match. “The players must keep their composure and not respond to any provocation,” he added.

JS Kabylie are likely to be unchanged for the game but Ahly are without Hossam Ghali, sent off in the last game and handed a subsequent four-match suspension. The Egyptians, who have won the Champions League a record six times, are also concerned that hard-working midfielder Hossam Ashour might not recover from a knock that he picked up in domestic league action earlier this week.

Esperance will have Youssef Msakni and Moez Ben Cherifa back for the visit of Mazembe on Saturday but there is doubt over the availability of their Nigerian international Michael Eneramo. Mazembe’s top two strikers Tresor Mputu and Alain Kaluyituka have been in Europe on trials over the last week but are scheduled to join up with their team mates for Saturday’s match.

Group A
On Friday
In Setif: Entente Setif (Algeria) v Dynamos (Zimbabwe) (21h00)

On Saturday
In Tunis: Esperance (Tunisia) v TP Mazembe Englebert (DR Congo) (21h00)

Standings (pts)
TP Mazembe Englebert 7
Esperance 6
Dynamos 3
Entente Setif 1

Group B
On Sunday
In Owerri: Heartland FC (Nigeria) v Ismaili (Egypt) (14h00)
In Cairo: Al Ahli (Egypt) v JS Kabylie (Algeria) (19h30)

Standings (pts)
JS Kabylie 9
Al Ahli 4
Ismaili 3
Heartland 1