Football

Showdown in Tunis: Esperance and Ahly Battle for Glory in the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League Final

The scene is set for a monumental clash as Esperance of Tunisia welcomes Egyptian giants Al Ahly for the first leg of the 2023/24 TotalEnergies CAF Champions League final on Saturday.

This encounter is the latest instalment in the storied rivalry between two of Africa’s most illustrious clubs.

Al Ahly, the record 11-time champions, have often had the upper hand in previous meetings, but Esperance, with four titles to their name, are determined to leverage their home advantage and pursue a fifth crown.

“Every Champions League opponent raises their game against Ahly. We are the most successful club in Africa, so everybody wants to beat us,” noted Al Ahly’s Swiss coach Marcel Koller.

Miguel Cardoso, Esperance’s Portuguese coach, views this final as the peak of his coaching career, having previously managed in Portugal, France, Spain, and Greece.

“Reaching the final is the pinnacle,” Cardoso stated. “We must seize this opportunity with both hands.”Both teams have demonstrated exceptional defensive prowess throughout the competition.

Al Ahly’s Mostafa Shobeir and Esperance’s Amanallah Memmiche have been standout performers, each keeping 11 clean sheets in 12 matches.

Shobeir, stepping in for the injured Mohamed El Shenawy, has been a revelation, presenting Koller with a dilemma over whether to stick with the youngster or recall the veteran El Shenawy.

On the other side, Memmiche, at just 20 years old, has displaced long-time Esperance goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia, playing a crucial role in their journey to the final.

While both defences have been rock-solid, Al Ahly’s attack has been more prolific, netting 19 goals compared to Esperance’s 9.

South African winger Percy Tau and the prolific Hussein El Shahat lead the offensive charge for the Egyptians.

Esperance will rely on Brazilian forward Yan Sasse, who has scored three goals, supported by Algerians Houssem Ghacha and Mohamed Tougai, and Togo’s Roger Aholou.

Al Ahly will be strengthened by the return of key midfielder Aliou Dieng and the anticipated recovery of defensive anchor Badr Benoun.

With the passionate backing of their home fans, Esperance will aim to gain a crucial advantage in the first leg before travelling to Cairo for the decisive second leg.

This contest is set to be a captivating chapter in the history of African club football’s greatest rivalry.

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