Etoile and Sfaxien seek historic win
Etoile Sahel or holders Sfaxien will create history tomorrow by becoming the first club to win the CAF Confederation Cup twice after their all-Tunisian final. The odds tilted slightly towards the former after they drew 0-0 away in the first leg two weeks ago, ending a run of 13 consecutive home wins by Sfaxien in the competition.
But French coach Herve Gauthier is taking nothing for granted, just three matches after he was pitched into one of the hottest seats in African football following the sacking of Swiss Michel Decastel.
"Playing at home gives us an advantage but we face a formidable foe. The key to success is getting the right balance between defence and attack," he told reporters in the Mediterranean resort of Sousse.
Sfaxien coach Ghazi Ghrairi remains upbeat as he tries to emulate Decastel, who led Juventus, as the Sfax outfit are nicknamed, to a 5-2 aggregate triumph over Al Merreikh of Sudan in the previous final before switching to Etoile.
"Nothing is lost and not conceding a goal at home was great. It is up to us to display our potential, especially with Etoile obliged to attack before their supporters," he said.
Etoile will miss suspended playmaker Mohamed Ali Nafkha, while Sfaxien defenders Chaker Bergaoui and Aymen Ben Amor have served bans and are available for selection as the clubs chase a $330,000 prize and a crack at Egyptian giants Al Ahly in next year's African Super Cup.
Apart from a host of Tunisian internationals, many African nations have representatives in the squads, including Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria.
Diminutive Nigerian striker Emeka Opara is the leading Etoile scorer in this season's competition, with three goals. Ghanaian Sadat Bukari, Guinean Mohamed Sacko and Zambian Fwayo Tembo are other potential starters for the team that finished fourth at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007.
Sfaxien also have a Ghanaian, Agyemang Opoku, and a Guinean, Naby Soumah, plus proven scorers at international level in Ivorian Blaise Kouassi and Congo DR's Basisila Lusadisu. Another key player for the defending champions in the African equivalent of the UEFA Cup is midfielder Abdelkrim Nafti.
In four previous continental duels between the sides, Etoile have triumphed 2-1 twice and drawn the others 3-3 and 0-0. Moreover, the Red Devils have never lost at home in an African club final.