Semi-finals of the CAF Champions League begin this week
Al Ahly take on Esperance, while Kaizer Chiefs face Wydad
Continental champions qualify for this year’s FIFA Club World Cup
While international competitions and qualifiers have been taking centre stage this month, four African clubs are preparing for crunch fixtures en route to this year’s FIFA Club World Cup™.
The setting is the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League 2021, in which ES Tunis take on Al Ahly, and Wydad face Kaizer Chiefs. With the eventual champions guaranteed a place at Japan 2021, FIFA.com previews the two ties ahead of this week’s first legs.
19 June (first leg); 26 June (second leg)
This clash features the winners of the last three editions of this tournament, who also happen to be the most successful sides in the competition’s history. Between them, the North African giants have amassed no fewer than 13 tournament wins. In fact, their last meeting in this competition was in the 2018 final, won by the Tunisians.
Defending champions Al Ahly progressed smoothly to the last four and have been boosted not only by their recent CAF Super Cup triumph at the expense of AS Berkane, but also by the return from injury of Mohamed 'Afsha' Magdy, who is expected to play on Saturday. The only cloud on the horizon is the unavailability of right-back Mohamed Hany.
The last few weeks have been more complicated for EST, recently eliminated from the Tunisian Cup by Etoile du Sahel in the Round of 32. On the plus side, they have a full set of players to choose from.
In search of a maiden Champions League title and contesting their first semi-final, Kaizer Chiefs will be the underdogs for this tie. Facing the South Africans are the vastly experienced Wydad Casablanca, winners in 2017 and finalists in 2019.
The two teams will be meeting for the third and fourth time this year, having shared a section in the group stage. WAC comfortably won the first encounter 4-0, but the South African side made amends with a 1-0 victory in Johannesburg. Wydad dominated the group, however, finishing ahead of the Chiefs as well as Horoya AC and Petro Atletico.
After a promising 2019/20 season, Ali Ben Romdhane has really kicked on this year. EST’s 21-year-old midfield maestro has added goalscoring to his repertoire and is the highest scorer among the teams left in the competition with four goals. That said, his ability to pull the strings could be curtailed by his in-form opposite number Aliou Dieng, a vital cog in Pitso Mosimane’s formation. In any case, this contest within a contest should make compelling viewing.
A star attraction in South African football, Bernard Parker will play his first Champions League semi-final at the age of 35. His vast club and international experience could make the difference in his battle with Wydad’s midfield strongman Walid El Karti.
"In all honesty, I’ll be cheering on Al Ahly. No Etoile du Sahel fan will be supporting EST. They’ve already won the trophy four times, while ESS have only won it once. We don't want to fall even further behind them."
Aymen Abdennour, Tunisia international and former Etoile du Sahel defender