Esperance Sportive de Tunis will be eager to overcome last year’s disappointment when they take on Egypt’s Zamalek in the CAF Super Cup match at the Al Gharafa stadium today. But a familiar foe stands against them in the form of Patrice Carteron.

Last year, Carteron led Morocco’s Raja Casablanca to the title with a 2-1 win over Esperance in Doha. Now the French coach is back with Egyptian giants Zamalek as he plots another win against the Tunisians.

It’s Esperance’s fifth CAF Super Cup appearance, but they have won the trophy only once – in 1995. They had to be content with runners-up finishes in in 1999, 2012 and 2019. On the other hand, Zamalek are also making their fifth appearance, with three victories in 1994, 1997 and 2003 and one defeat in 2001.

The Al Gharafa stadium is expected to be packed to the rafters as the tickets were sold out well in advance of the big clash. Both sides arrived in Qatar following strong starts to their respective domestic campaigns. Esperance top the Tunisian top flight, while Zamalek are in third place in the Egyptian Premier League with Cairo rivals Al Ahly unstoppable at the summit with 14 wins from 14 games.

Esperance, no doubt, will be the fancied team for tonight’s contest – which pits the winners of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup. They have won back to back CAF Champions League titles and have cemented their status as one of Africa’s greatest clubs, raising their share of CAF trophies to seven in all competitions. But it’s the Super Cup trophy drought, which they could be keen to end.

Magdy Traoui, the assistant coach of Esperance, said the team have learnt from last year’s failure and are keen to take the trophy back to Tunisia.

“We were closest to winning the title last year, but we did not win it. We have prepared the players psychologically and we want to play at a good level against Zamalek,” he said yesterday.

“Esperance have not won the title for a long time, so there will be some pressure but we are used it. We are fully prepared to play the game with our full strength and have a great desire to win. It won’t be easy against Zamalek,” he added.

Esperance will be playing competitive football in Doha for the fourth time in the last year. After their runners-up finish in Super Cup, they won the Tunisian Super Cup thanks to a 2-1 victory over Club Athletique Bizertin.
In December, the Tunisians finished fifth in the FIFA Club World Cup after beating Qatari side Al Sadd SC at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Esperance often start with as many as seven non-Tunisians, including four Algerians, although star defender Abdelkader Bedrane will be absent due to injury. Zamalek rely heavily on Egyptians including star forward Mostafa Mohamed.

Zamalek coach Carteron said his team had little time to prepare for the contest, due to a busy domestic schedule but was hopeful his players can rise to the challenge.

“It is difficult to talk about our readiness for this important match, because we have played a game every three days. We did not prepare specifically for this match, but from a technical side we are ready. The players are motivated for the match and we are so happy to be here,” he said.

On facing Esperance, Carteron said: “I have a lot of respect for the Esperance team and their coach Moein El Shaabani. He has been with them for two years and he is a great coach. I have seen him keep the Esperance team at a very high level despite the changes of players and this confirms the quality of his work. I am sure it will be an excellent game,”

This is the second time the CAF Super Cup will take place in Doha following an agreement between the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Qatar Football Association. The match will also take place in the Qatari capital in 2021 and 2022.

Source: Gulf Times