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CAF Champions League

All roads lead north

Al-Ahly Tripoli's Mahmoud Ramadan Ben Wali (C) fights for the ball against Etoile du Sahel's Ghazi Abderrazzak
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  • Four teams still in the running for a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup
  • USM Alger face Wydad Casablanca – the first time these two have met in this competition
  • Etoile du Sahel take on Al Ahly – a repeat of the final from ten years ago

The final four of the CAF Champions League 2017 has thrown up two 'local derbies', with teams from North Africa occupying all of the semi-final berths. In the west, Algeria’s USM Alger will take on Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, while further east, Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia face Egypt’s Al Ahly. Of those four, only USM have never previously gone on to become African champions.

The games *USM Alger – Wydad Casablanca * *Stade du 5 Juillet 1962, Algiers, 19.00, 29 September
*This is the first time that 2015 finalists USM Alger and 2016 semi-finalists WAC have met. Wydad may have knocked out reigning champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-finals, but they have struggled mightily away from home, winning just one match – at Coton Sport in the group stages – outside of Casablanca. USM will draw comfort from that particular stat but they have concerns of their own. In the quarter-finals, they saw off Clube Ferroviario da Beira without actually winning either of their matches against the rank outsiders at that stage of the competition, squeezing through with an away goal.

*Etoile du Sahel – Al Ahly
Stade Olympique de Sousse, 19.30, 1 October
*After defeating Espérance de Tunis in the previous round, Egyptian side Al Ahly will have to see off another Tunisian outfit if they are to keep their hopes of a ninth title alive. ESS meanwhile find themselves up against another 'Ahly', after their win over Ahly Tripoli of Libya in the previous round, as they look to reach the final of the competition for the fourth time. The last time they made it that far was ten years ago, when they won their only title to date – defeating none other than Al Ahly to lift the trophy.

Player to watch *Etoile du Sahel’s Egyptian striker *Amr Marei did not take long to win over his new home crowd after a July 2017 transfer from ENPPI Club. The 1.75m (5'7) striker hit the ground running, notching two headers against Ahly Tripoli to help ESS win their quarter-final 2-0. Hector Cuper decided against calling him up for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier against Congo, meaning that Marei will be all the more determined to shine against Al Ahly, who have seven internationals in their ranks.

The stat *
– It is not the first time that four North African teams have got through to the Champions League semi-finals. Ten years ago in 2007, Al Ahly, Etoile du Sahel, Al Hilal and Al Ittihad made it through to this stage of the competition, and there has always been at least one team from the north of the continent in the last four since 2001.

The words...
"It won’t be an easy match, this semi-final – Wydad will make life really hard for us. They are a well-organised team and it promises to be a tough one. We need to be fully focused and put in a good performance. Reaching the last four is already quite an achievement for us." Paul Put, USM Alger coach

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