Zamalek have already drawn the first blood in the fight between these 2 accomplished clubs, by winning the CAF Super Cup. And they did win it properly at that. This could be telling of how much we have underestimated the White Knights or it could be a warning to Esperance Tunis that their time on top of the pile has come to an end. Read about all the key talking points below.
1. End of the road for Taraji?
Esperance Tunis has sold 6 players from the squad that won back-to-back CAF Champions League titles. This is usually a killing blow for any team. But Esperance is not any team. Esperance is the “ghoul of Africa.” Even so, fans of this team would have been concern to see how easily they lost to Zamalek in the Super Cup. The team has become way too predictable in personnel and approach. As well, the team lacks real depth and the quality of some of their starting players has been brought to question. Are we overthinking this or has Esperance reign as King come to a natural end?
2. Abderrahmane Meziane
You can dismiss Meziane as just another Algerian at Parc B. You could as well consider him the missing piece for Esperance ever since they sold Anice Badri. One thing is for sure, he will be facing a lot of pressure to truly raise the level of the team. His job description is to be the man that Badri was – a secondary goal-threat for the Tunis team. Abderrahmane Meziane has no choice but to hit the ground running. This is the knockout stage after all.
3. Midfield battle
We know that Kwame Bonsu did not cover himself in glory during the Super Cup. The Ghanaian midfielder was a big reason as to why Esperance lost. This should not take anything away from him. Bonsu remains an able midfielder. He may not start any of the 2 CAFCL encounters though. Attention will be shifted to the performance of midfield duos of the 2 sides. Zamalek have Sassi and Hamed while Esperance have Coulibaly and Benguit. The former have attained the higher ceiling since we started following them but you can never underestimate players good enough to don the Blood and Gold colours (Sassi himself once did, actually).
4. The Wydad connection
The real intercontinental rivalry in Africa right now is Esperance Tunis and Wydad Casablanca – forget the Sundowns thing. I wonder if these teams can even afford to face each other. Anyway, as we await the answer, Wydad will have 2 of their former players do their bidding. Bencharki and Ounajem already brought tears to Esperance by winning the CAF Super Cup. It will be an even bigger party in Casablanca if the duo can mastermind the exit of Taraji from the CAFCL.