Thursday 01 November 2018, 08:54

Ahly and Esperance vie for African supremacy

  • Al Ahly and Esperance de Tunis to battle it out in CAF Champions League final

  • The pair already have 10 continental titles between them

  • Winners will qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018

Egypt's Al Ahly and Tunisia's Esperance de Tunis are on the cusp of glory, as they prepare to go head-to-head to see who will win the CAF Champions League and represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018. All eyes will be on the Borg El Arab Stadium on Friday 2 November and the Stade Olympique de Rades on Friday 9 November to see who emerges victorious.

Back for more The Cairo giants will be hoping to pen a bright, new chapter in their already-storied history with victory this year. After finishing runners-up in 2017, falling at the final hurdle for a second consecutive year would be devastating for Al Ahly fans, who regard their side as perennial favourites for this competition because of their eight previous titles.

During this campaign, Al Ahly endured a shaky start in the group stage before hitting their stride. Concerns of an early exit were soon forgotten, as the Red Devils’ strike force came to the fore in the latter part of the competition to power the team to the final. Under the stewardship of French coach Patrice Carteron, the club has assembled a squad that is both pragmatic and consistent, while still being effective in attack and tactically disciplined. One player on whom the team will be relying heavily is Walid Soleman, who not only offers pace and incision with his playmaking skills, but also weighs in with his share of goals.

Comparison by numbers

  • Al Ahly have played 12 games, starting from the second preliminary round, while Esperance have played 14, starting one round earlier

  • Al Ahly have recorded eight wins, two draws, and two defeats, while Esperance also have eight wins and two defeats, as well as four draws

  • Al Ahly have scored 23 goals (1.91 per game), while Esperance have registered 22 goals (1.57 per game)

  • Al Ahly have conceded just eight goals (and none during eight games), while Esperance have shipped nine goals (and none during seven games)

Rades puzzle For Esperance, the thought of losing again to their opponents at their own Stade Olympique is almost inconceivable. Defeats to Al Ahly in the home legs of the 2012 final and the 2017 quarter-final, and again in the group stage this year, is something that has long confounded the Tunisian heavyweights and their fans, and which must surely be resolved, if they are to claim the title this time around.

Yet, before they get a chance to put that right, the side from Tunis will need an exemplary performance in the first leg – something they have managed on recent trips to Egypt. They know that a clean sheet there, perhaps with a goal scored, would go a long way towards securing them the title. However, thus far in the current edition, Esperance have won just twice away from home, drawing on four other occasions. Mouine Chaabani's players will be keen to avoid a repeat of what happened in their semi-final against Primeiro de Agosto. Having lost the first game in Angola, they went further behind at the start of the return fixture and had to produce a miraculous comeback to reach the final.

Did you know?

  • An Al Ahly-Esperance meeting is something of a classic in African football. The pair have met 14 times in this tournament, perhaps most memorably is the final in 2012. Esperance returned from Cairo with a 1-1 draw and what seemed like the upper hand, but Al Ahly turned the tables at the Stade Rades to win 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

  • During their previous 14 meetings, draws have been the most common result (six times). Al Ahly have won on five occasions (including three times in Tunis), as have Esperance, with the last of their wins coming in the second leg of the 2011 semi-final.

  • Al Ahly will be taking part in their 12th continental final, eight of which they have won. Both of those stats are tournament records. For Esperance, this will be their seventh final. On their previous six attempts, they have triumphed twice and lost four times, the last to none other than Al Ahly.

  • Anice Badri (Esperance) and Walid Azaro (Al Ahly) will be also be competing to be this year’s top scorer in the CAF Champions League. Badri leads the way on seven goals, along with two other players no longer in contention, while Azaro is just one back on six. With 180 minutes still to play, both will have time to stake their claim.

  • The two teams were drawn together in this year’s group stage. Unsurprisingly, they drew 0-0 in Cairo, while Al Ahly secured a hard-fought 1-0 victory in Tunis, thanks to an Azaro strike.