JS Kabylie (Algeria) and Espérance ST (Tunisia) are set to clash in the quarterfinals of the CAF Champions League, with the first leg taking place tonight in Algiers. Both teams will be hoping to secure a crucial advantage in this highly anticipated encounter, as they look to advance to the semifinals of the competition. JS Kabylie, who have won the competition twice before, will be looking to secure a positive result at home before heading to Tunisia for the second leg. Meanwhile, Espérance ST, who have lifted the trophy four times, will be hoping to spoil the party and come away with a crucial away win to take back to Tunis. Here is what African news outlets had to say about what promises to be an exciting match between two North-African sides vying for continental glory.
CAF CL Quarterfinal First Leg Preview: JS Kabylie (ALG) vs. Espérance ST (TUN)
The 2022-23 CAF Champions League quarterfinals kick off with Friday evening’s first leg match between Algeria’s JS Kabylie and reigning Tunisian champions Espérance ST. JSK are the surprise name in the final eight of Africa’s most prestigious club competition, advancing from Group A despite being in the midst of a relegation battle in Algeria’s Ligue 1 Professionnelle and keen to take advantage of a busy week for EST. Espérance and head coach Nabil Maâloul are preparing for the first of three matches in eight days with the Tunisian Classico against rivals Étoile du Sahel taking place in between both legs against JSK.
JSK made it through to the knockout stage of the competition thanks to their determination which went a long way to make up for the Algerian club’s lack of attacking proficiency. The Canaries mustered only four goals in six matches but won all three of their home matches and managed a draw away from home against Angola’s Petro de Luanda that showcased their tenacity and organization. Head coach Miloud Hamdi and JSK defender Fares Nechat emphasized in pre-match comments that the team is feeling no pressure and embracing their role as underdogs.
It appears Hamdi’s lineup is set but there are questions around the goalkeeper position. Abderrahmane Medjadel performed excellently in the group stage but discipline issues appear likely to see him excluded for the crucial first leg after a recent clash with the goalkeeping coach, which may open up an opportunity for 20-year-old local youth product Mohamed Idir Hadid to make his first appearance of the season in the pressure clash. Veteran midfielders Juba Oukaci and Salim Boukhenchouche are healthy and will bring the intensity that JSK need. Kouceila Boualia is the most consistent attacking threat and should start along with veteran Dadi Mouaki who brings industry but inconsistent finishing.
Espérance head coach Nabil Maâloul has the more talented players but fixture congestion presents a bit of a puzzle for the veteran tactician. EST supporters will demand success in the Champions League but also desire a victory against rivals Étoile du Sahel, requiring Maâloul to balance his player selection and make sure his team is physically prepared for all three matches. 4,000 tickets are allocated for EST supporters in Algiers who will be important on Friday considering that the support of JSK will not fill up the Stade du 5 Juillet. The Champions League remains the top priority for Maâloul and EST will send out their best eleven.
Midfielder Ghailene Chaalali and Anis Badri are the notable absences for EST for different reasons but the squad remains strong for Maâloul. Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane and Ivorian Fousseny Coulibaly are the key figures in the midfield with Ben Romdhane’s ability to score goals with his shooting and set piece skills an important factor. Tunisia national team defender Yassine Meriah and Algeria’s Mohamed Amine Tougai form one of Africa’s best center back partnerships while Libya national team star Hamdou Elhouni is the most dynamic threat in the attack. Mohamed Ben Hamida excels at attacking down the flank from his left back position and Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda is likely to play at the striker position over Algerian Riad Benayad.
JS Kabylie look ahead to CAF CL quarter-final against ES Tunis
ES Tunis faced the media on Thursday as they prepare to meet 14-time Algerian champions JS Kabylie in the quarter-final, first leg of the CAF Champions League at Stade du 5 Juillet in Algiers on Friday night.
Esperance, who won back-to-back Champions League titles in 2018 and 2019, are in the last eight of the competition for the seventh year running.
They topped Group D, having lost just one of their six group matches.
However, Nabil Maaloul's men have struggled away from home, triumphing in only one of their four away ties. They will also be up against a JS Kabylie side with an exceptional home record in the competition, having won all their games at home this season.
The two clubs have met twice before; they were paired in the same group during the 2019-20 Champions League campaign, with one win apiece.
JS Kabylie trained on Thursday ahead of hosting ES Tunis in the first leg of their CAF Champions League quarter-final.
JSK will be aiming to maintain their perfect home record this season in the tournament when the two sides meet in the Stade du 5 Juillet in Algiers on Friday night.
Miloud Hamdi's side have won all five of their home games in the competition, beating Casa Sports and ASKO Kara in the preliminary rounds before victories over Wydad Casablanca, AS Vita Club and Petro de Luanda in the group stages.
JSK finished runners-up to defending champions Wydad in Group A to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time since 2010.
However, the record 14-time Algerian champions have struggled to replicate this form on the domestic stage. After finishing second in Algeria's top tier last season, they are currently languishing down in 15th place.
Defending champions Wydad will meet Simba in the quarter-finals of the CAF Champions League following Wednesday's knockout stage draw in Cairo, Egypt.
Wydad, who have made it to at least the quarter-finals for eight years in a row, will meet the winner of the tie between CR Belouizdad and Mamelodi Sundowns if they beat Simba over two legs.
Al Ahly - the most successful club in the history of the competition with ten titles - were pitted against Raja Club Athletic, who had the best record in this year's group stage with five wins and a draw.
The winner of that tie will meet either four-time former champions Esperance de Tunis or two-time winners JS Kabylie in the last four, with the first legs to be played on 21st-22nd April.
Kabylie looking to make home advantage count against ES Tunis
JS Kabylie will attempt to keep their perfect home record in the CAF Champions League intact when they host ES Tunis in the quarterfinal, first leg at the 5 July 1962 Stadium on Friday night.
Miloud Hamdi's side won all five of their home games in the competition this season, beating Casa Sports and ASKO Kara in the preliminary rounds at the 8 May 1945 Stadium in Setif before triumphing over Wydad Casablanca, AS Vita Club and Petro de Luanda in Algiers during the group stages.
JSK finished runners-up to defending champions Wydad in Group A to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time since 2010, when they bowed out to TP Mazembe in the semifinals.
The record 14-time Algerian champions have struggled to replicate the form that saw them claim second place in the Ligue Professionnelle 1 last term, with a 1-0 defeat to Paradou AC on April 9 leaving them four points adrift of safety in 15th position.
However, Hamdi has urged his players to set aside their domestic problems in order to concentrate fully on the Blood and Gold, who have already beaten CR Belouizdad at the same venue in Group D this year.
"We have to forget the championship and focus only on the match against EST," he said. "We have to play our chances to the fullest. Qualification will be decided over two rounds and we have to do our best to achieve the best possible result."
Esperance reached the last eight for the seventh year running after they topped Group D by a point ahead of the Great Chabab, having lost just once in their six matches.
Nabil Maaloul's team failed to win their last three group encounters, however, and have struggled for results on their travels in the competition, winning only one of four away ties.
The Tunisian giants recently finished top of Group A in the Ligue Professionnelle 1 to qualify for the playoffs and suffered their first defeat in five games after going down 2-0 to Olympique Beja on April 16.
They are among the favourites to lift the coveted trophy for a fifth time, having won back-to-back titles as recently as 2018 and 2019.
The two clubs have met twice before; they were paired in the same group during the 2019-20 Champions League campaign, with JS Kabylie winning 1-0 in Tizi Ouzou after ES Tunis came out on top by the same scoreline in Rades.