Friday, October 26, 2007

African Champions League Final

The African Champions League Final is upon us!

The first leg of the biggest continental competition in Africa takes place this Saturday, with Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel challenging defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt.

Let the battle begin!

Etoile coach Bertrand Marchand called Ahly a 'lucky' team ahead of Saturday's clash.

The two sides meet in Sousse and the Tunisians are keen to avenge defeat in the 2005 final, which Ahly won on a 3-0 aggregate.

"Ahly depend too much on luck and experience and will need more than that when facing us," Marchand said.

"The key Ahly players are midfielder Mohamed Aboutraika and striker Emad Moteab and if we stop them, they will be easily contained and we can definitely claim the trophy."

Marchand considers Al-Hilal, the Sudanese club Etoile defeated 4-3 in a two-leg semi-final thriller, a much better team than the Egyptians, who relied on an own goal to edge Al-Ittihad of Libya at the same stage.

"I watched Ahly against Ittihad and they suffered to succeed. Hilal are much better than the Egyptians," he revealed. Talk about fanning the flames ...

Aware that Etoile flopped against Ahly two years ago using overly cautious tactics home and away, Marchand vowed to unleash a three-man strike force against their opponents, who are chasing a record third consecutive Champions League title.

His likely choices are Tunisian Amine Chermiti, leading Etoile scorer in the competition this year with seven goals, three-goal Cape Verdian Gilson 'Ja' Silva and Ghanaian mid-year signing Sadat Bukari.

All are young, quick and slick, and capable of troubling an Ahly defense long on experience but short on pace when brutally exposed 3-0 away to Hilal in the mini-league phase.

"Winning the African Champions League would be a dream," Chermiti said.

"We have a solid squad and wonderful supporters and I cannot accept failure again after losing two of the previous three finals."

Etoile were pipped on penalties by Enyimba of Nigeria in the 2004 decider.

The club from the Mediterranean resort of Sousse have won every Confederation of African Football (CAF) competition except the Champions League.

They also want to end a losing streak by Tunisia in the showcase of African club football as CS Sfaxien had victory snatched from their grasp last year when Aboutraika struck a stoppage-time winner in Tunis.

Good luck to both squads and may the best team win!

No comments: