Al Ahly vs. Esperance Tunis CAF Champions League Final Match Preview (1 Viewer)

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The battle for the 2023-24 CAF Champions League title comes down to the wire as Al Ahly and Esperance Tunis face off at the Cairo International Stadium in the second leg of the final on Saturday.

With last week's first leg ending in a draw, the stakes couldn't be higher for both teams, setting up an exciting showdown this weekend. Al Ahly have had a relatively smooth journey to the final, finishing top of Group D with an unbeaten record in the group stage, earning 12 points from six games.

In the quarter-finals, Al Ahly comfortably dispatched Simba SC with a 3-0 aggregate victory. The semi-finals saw them draw 0-0 with TP Mazembe in the first leg, but they delivered a stellar performance in the second leg, winning 3-0 to secure their spot in the final for the sixth time in seven years.

During the second leg of the semi-final, Mohamed Abdelmonem, Wessam Abou Ali, and Akram Tawfik scored to seal a comprehensive victory. In the first leg of the final, Al Ahly were unable to find the back of the net against Esperance Tunis, resulting in a goalless draw despite numerous attempts from both sides.

Al Ahly's defensive prowess has been remarkable, as they remain unbeaten in their last 19 CAF Champions League matches, with 12 wins and seven draws, and 16 clean sheets, conceding just three goals during this run. They have a strong home record against Esperance, unbeaten in their last 11 home matches against the Tunisian side, with five wins and six draws.

Esperance Tunis also had a solid group-stage performance, finishing second in Group C with 11 points. They narrowly edged out Mimosas on penalties in the quarter-finals after a goalless draw over both legs. In the semi-finals, they defeated Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 at home and replicated the scoreline away to secure a 2-0 aggregate victory.

Both teams made history by becoming the first two sides to go nine consecutive games without conceding in CAF Champions League history. Domestically, Esperance Tunis lead the Tunisian Ligue 1 championship round standings, but their hopes for a domestic double were dashed by a surprising 2-1 extra-time defeat to Ligue 2 side Oceano Club De Kerkennah.

As they prepare for Saturday's crucial match, Esperance Tunis aim to win their fifth CAF Champions League title and their first since 2019. They also seek to repeat their 2018 final victory over Al Ahly, when they won 4-3 on aggregate.

Saturday's final promises to be a thrilling contest, with both teams eager to claim the prestigious title and finish their campaigns on a high note.

INJURIES & SUSPENSION​

Al Ahly faced a significant injury blow in last Saturday's first leg when Ali Maaloul tore his Achilles tendon just seven minutes into the game. The veteran defender will be sidelined for an extended period. In his absence, 24-year-old Karim Fouad is expected to step in, joining Abdelmonem, Mohamed Hany, and captain Rami Rabia in defense.

The Egyptian side will also be without attacking trio Ahmed Abdelkader, Taher Mohamed, and Tunisian striker Mohamed Dhao, all recovering from injuries. However, they will be boosted by the return of Senegalese midfielder Aly Dieng, who was an unused substitute in the first leg. Dieng is likely to team up with Emam Ashour, Marwan Attia, and Tawfik in midfield.

Experienced forward Hussein El Shahat, who has scored three goals in this Champions League campaign, should maintain his attacking role alongside former Brighton and Hove Albion player Percy Tau.

For Esperance, another solid defensive performance is anticipated with an unchanged back four of Mohamed Ben Ali, Yassine Meriah, Mohamed Tougai, and Amine Ben Hamida. Amanallah Memmiche is expected to start in goal once again.

Captain Ghaylene Chaaleli and Togolese international Roger Aholou should continue as the midfield anchors, while Yan Sasse, Houssameddine Ghacha, and Houssem Teka will form the attacking trio. Yan Sasse, with three goals and one assist this season, ranks second in the Champions League for goal involvements and will be a key player to watch.

POSSIBLE LINE-UPS​

Al Ahly possible starting lineup:
Shobeir; Fouad, Abdelmonem, Rabia, Hany; Ashour, Dieng, Attia, Tawfik; El Shahat, Tau

Esperance Tunis possible starting lineup:
Memmiche; Ali, Meriah, Tougai, Hamida; Aholou, Chaaleli; Sasse, Teka, Ghacha; Rodrigues

EXPERT PREDICTION​

Al Ahly 2-1 Esperance Tunis
Al Ahly and Esperance Tunis have both been tough to break down defensively, so we anticipate a tight, cautious match at the Cairo International Stadium. However, Al Ahly's home advantage, with their passionate fans behind them, could tip the scales. We expect Marcel Koller's team to secure a victory with the backing of their home crowd.
 

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