The African football family will have their eyes and ears widely opened towards the Moroccan city of Rabat as Wydad of Casablanca hosts Esperance of Tunis for the first leg final of the 2019 African Champions League this Friday May 24, 2019.
Esperance are defending champions and will face the 2017 winners Wydad. Esperance will be playing their eighth final in the competition with three wins already, while Wydad who lifted the trophy in 1992 and 2017 will be playing the final for the fourth time.
Wydad would have loved to play the final in Casablanca but they have been forced to move 87 km to the north-east of Casablanca due to ongoing works at their Mohammed V Sports Complex. They will host Espérance at the Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat. This change will not however stop their very focal fans to turnout in their numbers to push their team to victory.
In 2011, Esperance defeated Wydad in the finals to lift the trophy after 0-0 draw in the first leg and 0-1 win in the return leg. Wydad’s hugely experienced coach Faouzi Benzarti will try to avoid a repeat of that. The 69 years old highly respected and successful Tunisian coach led Esperance to victory in the tournament in 1994.
Esperance are in a run of 8 victories and three draws in the competition while Wydad have won 6, drawn 3 and lost 3. Esperance are considered as favorites going into the finals, especially as Wydad have witnessed a drop in form with a run of five games without a win in the Moroccan league with just three points separating them from their bitter Rivals Raja of Casablanca now with two games left to the end of the league.
Both teams have complete squads for the final with the return of striker Mohamed Ounajem and left back Mohamed Nahiri for Wydad. Five of Wydad’s players could miss the return leg game while seven from the Esperance team could also be suspended if they are booked in this first leg.
37 years old Esperance coach Moine Chaabani has already proven his worth by lifting the trophy last season, he will be going against Faouzi Benzarti without any complex despite not even being born at the time Benzarti started his coaching career.
Frank Kom and his teammates will try to get a good result to keep their hopes of retaining the trophy alive when they host Wydad in Tunisia for the second leg next week.