Raja Casablanca will host Zamalek in the first leg of the CAF Champions League 2019/2020 semifinals on Sunday, 18th October 2020, from 2100 CAT. A CAF Champions League will be the perfect end to a good season for Raja Casablanca. Zamalek have to figure out how to do it without Patrice Carteron.
Raja Casablanca Probable XI: Zniti – Achchakir, Banoun, Warfali, Ngah – Ngoma, Arjoune, Azrida – Hafidi, Malango, Rahimi (4-3-3)
Zamaldk Probable XI: Abougabal – Emam, Alaa, Wensh, Gomaa – Sassi, Hamed – Ounajem, Zizo, Bencharki – Mostafa (4-2-3-1)
What is at Stake?
Raja Casablanca have truly become a great club again this season. They Greens finally ended a 7-year wait for the Botola title. The Greens have also put up a strong CAF Champions League performance since they last did so in the early 2000s. There must be belief within the squad that they can go all the way.
Jamal Sellami has to take most of the credit for the revival of Raja Casablanca. He has led them to great performances in knockout competitions – CAFCL and Arab Club Cup – and he has shown himself to be a good squad and game manager. Raja Casablanca have been beset by injuries all through the season but it has not taken away from their momentum.
I must admit that Zamalek has surprised me by reaching the CAFCL semifinal this season. I did not rate them at all. What I did not see coming was their good results in big matches. The 3-0 loss to TP Mazembe was the only time they let their fans down. Otherwise, the White Knights have won the CAF Super Cup, Cairo Derby and knocked out Esperance Tunis from this competition.
The man behind these excellent results was Patrice Carteron. But he left for a bigger payslip – European mercenary coaches for you!. This leaves a lot of doubt as to whether the successor, Jaime Pacheco, can maintain the team mentality. Pacheco was at Zamalek in 2014 and it is believed that he can fix their leaky defence. On my part, I think the solution for Zamalek is to simply sign better defenders.
What will the Match be Like?
Jamal Sellami has opted for a 4-3-3 formation since the resumption of football. The formation has allowed Azrida to get back into the team and for Rahimi to take up the role of Talisman. It is expected that Ben Malango and Hafidi will support him in attack. Although, Nanah and Moutouali are strong candidates to start, especially for a home match.
Zamalek’s line-up will also be familiar (update: Sassi is doubtful for the match pending results of tests for Covid 19 infection) . The only real headache for Pacheco will be on who to start at leftback. Abdulshafy has been ruled out of the tie due to injury leaving Abdallah Gomaa and Islam Gaber to fight for the slot.
I will be curious to see whether Pacheco opts to start Ounajem in Morocco or if he will go Egyptian and start Youssef Obama. Bencharki, Mostafa Mohamed and Zizo are considered guaranteed starters.
We expect a more open match as compared to the other semifinal. There is a lot of attacking quality on display and it is in the nature of these teams to play entertaining football (yes, even Zamalek). I will be curious to see who’s fullback weakness is exploited by the opponent. Raja have concerns at righback just as Zamalek have at leftback.
Raja Casablanca 2-1 Zamalek
Raja are at home and that means they are guaranteed to score a goal. Their attacking quality coupled with Zamalek’s weaknesses in defence is an opportunity to build up an unassailable lead just as they did against TP Mazembe. But Zamalek are now a “big game team” so we do not expect them to fold so easily.