Going back over the last 20 years, Esperance have gotten out of the group stage and at least into the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League a full ten times. However, the Tunisian giants appear set to be eliminated from their group unless they can take a full three points from a tough away match in Algeria. In the opposite table, Egypt's remaining representatives, Zamalek are looking for a home win to break up the current Congo DR domination. The winner of the competition will represent the continent in December's FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.
Match of the week
If Zamalek fans had been told before the start of the Champions League group phase that their beloved White Knights would be staring elimination in the face ahead of their fifth group game, they would have not believed it. But that is exactly the situation the club find themselves in ahead of their match against Vita Club. Zamalek have just four points, three less than their opponents and a draw would mean that the Egyptian club will finish behind the team from Congo DR, and should TP Mazembe avoid defeat at home against Al Hilal in the other Group A game, Zamalek would be eliminated. New coach Hossam Hassan, who replaced the sacked 'Mido' after Zamalek's home draw against Mazembe, has promised that the team will do everything they can to stay in contention. "We will fight until the last minute to reach the semi-final. The team will have a different style, but we also need fans to stand behind us to achieve our goals,” the Egyptian footballing legend said. He might be without influential defender Salah Soliman, who is still recovering from an injury.
Sudanese club Al Hilal will also go into their game against Mazembe with a new coach after Brazilian Paulo Campos was fired following an incident with the referee at the end of Al Hilal's 2-1 defeat against Vita Club, who won with a penalty deep into injury time. Assistant coach Al-Tag Mahgoub will lead the team against Mazembe. Al Hilal have four points, while Mazembe have seven and the four-time winners will be guaranteed a place in the semi-finals with a win, while even a draw would be enough if Zamalek fail to beat Vita Club. In Group B, surprise leaders ES Setif are at home against Esperance, who have to win if they want to keep alive their hopes of staying in the competition. The Algerians top the group with eight points, while the Blood and Gold, who won the competition in 1994 and 2011 and made it at least to the semi-finals in the last four years, have just three.
The Tunisians will draw some hope from the fact that Setif have failed to win either of the two matches they have played at home in group stage this year – drawing both. Both coaches could be forced to adjust their backlines. Setif will be without international Farid Mellouli who is suspended and could miss the injured Abdelghani Demou, while Esperance coach Sebastien Desabre is sweating over the fitness of Sameh Derbali, who picked up an injury in their last friendly. The international defender will probably be replaced by Mohamed Amine Nefzi if he fails to recover in time.
The other group game sees CS Sfaxien face Libyan club Al Ahly, with the match being played in Tunis due to the security situation in Libya. A draw – or better – will see Sfaxien, who are on seven points, advance to the round of the last four. They will have to do so though without many fans as the club has been given just 50 tickets for the game. Sfaxien have registered Irenee Kouakou and Habib Bellaid for the competition and both could play a part against the Libyan club.
Player to watch
Young striker Haythem Jouini was on fire for Esperance in the qualifying stages for the Champions League, netting six times in the four matches that the Tunisian club played. But since then his goals have dried up and without them, the Blood and Gold have won just once in their four group matches. Faced with a must-win game at Setif, Esperance will be hoping that Jouini can find his scoring form again.
3 – The number of times that Tunisian club Esperance have failed to progress from the group of the Champions League once they've reached that stage. Before this year, the Blood and Gold have 12 times made it to the group stage and in all but three years have made it at least to the round of the last four. They have to win at ES Setif if they want to add to that impressive record.
What they said
“We have a great opportunity to ensure our ticket for the final four of the competition. Even if we need just one point so achieve this, we will try to win the game to ensure our momentum continues,” ES Setif coach Kheireddine Madoui ahead of their clash against Esperance.
Have your say
Can Hossam Hassan get his second stint in charge of Zamalek off to a winning start by coaching the team to a victory against Vita Club?