African giants Etoile, Mazembe in cup showdown

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Roger Assale (R) is among a number of foreigners in a 19-man Mazembe squad chosen by coach Hubert Velud to take on Etoile Sahel in a CAF Confederation Cup semi-final ©Kazuhiro Nogi (AFP/File)

An African club football classic is on the cards this weekend when Etoile Sahel of Tunisia host TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a CAF Confederation Cup semi-final.

Etoile and Mazembe have won nine CAF titles each, an achievement bettered only by the 19 successes of Al Ahly of Egypt.

The Tunisian outfit, based in the Mediterranean resort of Sousse, are the only club to have won all five present and past African competitions.

Last year, Mazembe won the CAF Champions League and Etoile the CAF Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the Europa League.

Those victories set them up for a CAF Super Cup showdown and two goals from Ghanaian Daniel Adjei gave Mazembe a 2-1 victory in a one-off match they hosted in Lubumbashi.

Adjei is among many foreigners in a 19-man Mazembe squad chosen by French coach Hubert Velud for the first leg at the 25,000-seat Stade Olympique late Saturday.

Others include Zambians Kabaso Chongo, Rainford Kalaba and Nathan Sinkala, Ivorians Christian Kouame and Roger Assale, Malians Salif Coulibaly and Adama Traore and Ghanaian Solomon Asante.

Another Ivorian, goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo, was not included, leaving charismatic veteran Robert Kidiaba and Aime Bakula vying for the role of shot-stopper.

Etoile rely largely on Tunisian talent, but centre-back Ammar Jemal has been ruled out of the semi-final after undergoing knee surgery.

Jemal is not only an outstanding defender, but also a regular scorer, claiming both goals in a 2-1 aggregate victory over Orlando Pirates of South Africa in the 2015 Confederation Cup final.

Goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi, midfielder Hamza Lahmar and strikers Ahmed Akaichi and Brazilian Diogo Acosta are other Etoile stars.

Etoile and Mazembe began this season in the Champions League, but final qualifying round losses meant demotion to the Confederation Cup.

“I have a team of incredible professionals,” said Velud, who succeeded Egypt-bound compatriot Patrice Carteron this year.

“They possess good spirit and are very efficient and combative. We are rebuilding and the team is constantly improving.”

A strong defence faces a formidable attack when first-time semi-finalists Mouloudia Bejaia of Algeria host 2010 Confederation Cup winners FUS Rabat of Morocco late Sunday in the other semi-final.

Bejaia are coached by former Algeria defender Nacer Sandjak and conceded only three goals in eight matches en route to the penultimate stage.

FUS, the only semi-finalists who did not begin this season in the Champions League, have struck 23 goals in 12 games with Abdessalam Benjelloun and Mohamed Nahiri notching four each.

Another nine FUS players also got on the scoresheet during qualifying, play-off or group matches, so Bejaia will do well to extend a record of not conceding a goal at home in the second-tier competition.

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