- Return legs of CAF Champions League semi-finals take place this weekend
- Ties are delicately poised after the first legs
- The winners of the competition will book a place at the FIFA Club World Cup
Contested by four north African sides, the semi-finals of the 2017 CAF Champions League are both finely poised ahead of this weekend’s second legs.
While USM Alger and Wydad Casablanca are locked at 0-0 after their first meeting in Algeria, Tunisia’s Etoile Sportive du Sahel hold a narrow 2-1 lead going into their return with Al Ahly, with the Egyptians hoping to make that precious away goal count in their bid to reach the final.
*The matches *Wydad Casablanca-USM Alger
Stade Mohammed V, Casablanca, 21:00, 21 October
Wydad’s away record has been shaky, with only one win coming their way on the road, at Coton Sport in the group phase. Yet while the Moroccans failed to improve that statistic in the first leg, they did at least manage to hold their Algerian opponents to a goalless draw. Given Wydad’s 100 per cent home record to date, that result looks to be a good one. USM Alger’s away record of two defeats and three draws is a further cause for Moroccan optimism, while the Algerians are the only one of the semi-finalists with a negative goal difference on the road (four goals scored, five conceded). USM will be bolstered, however, by the return of their Algeria striker Oussama Darfalou, who has recovered from the injury he sustained in training with Les Fennecs on 6 October.
Al Ahly-Etoile Sportive du Sahel *
Borg el Arab Stadium, Alexandria, 19:00, 22 October
Three wins and two draws: that is Al Ahly’s impressive home record in the CAF Champions League this year. Yet with Etoile Sportive du Sahel putting together exactly the same figures on the road, Sunday’s return looks too close to call, especially with the tie so intriguingly poised after the first leg. While Etoile have the edge, the Egyptians have an all-important away goal in their favour, which means a 1-0 win will be enough to take them through. The two sides met in the 2007 final, when, following a goalless draw in Sousse, Etoile won 3-1 in Cairo to lift the trophy, the last time they did so.
Player to watch
Midfielder Mohamed Amine Ben Amor *is Etoile’s form player. A few days after scoring his side’s winner in the first leg with a superb 30-yard drive, he repeated the trick for Tunisia in their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier against Guinea. That double was made all the more notable by the fact that the 25-year-old defensive midfielder had scored only four goals in all competitions since making his debut in 2014.
* The stat *8 *- For the eighth time since the inception of the CAF Champions League in 1997, the final of the competition will be contested by two sides from the north of the continent.
What they said
“We’re in with a great chance and we’ll be fighting to keep it that way right to the very last minute. There are no excuses. We’re looking for nothing less than a place in the final. As long as we believe, we will have a chance. It’s up to us to do what we need to do to repay the faith invested in us.”
USM Alger midfielder Hamza Koudri