Caf Confederation Cup preview: Zamalek take hunt for maiden title to Agadir; Sfaxien, Etoile eye fifth crowns

Goal Kenya.
The quest to succeed holders Raja Casablanca as Caf Confederation Cup champions continues at the quarter-final stage on Sunday

Zamalek's bid to end a 16-year trophy drought in Africa continue with a Caf Confederation Cup quarter-final first leg clash against Hassania Agadir at Stade d'Agadir on Sunday.

Since lifting the 2003 Caf Super Cup, silverware has eluded Zamalek but now they have a chance to break that jinx and win their maiden Confederation Cup trophy.

That attempt might not be an easy one against a Hassania Agadir side who are yet to lose at home in the competition this season.

Despite enjoying a good home record, which could be a cause for concern for Zamalek, Hassania Agadir goalkeeper Abderrahman El-Houasli has chosen to be humble and speak glowingly of their opponents.

“We have a historic game awaiting us against a huge opponent. One of the giants of African football. We’ll be entering the game with very high motives," El-Houasli was quoted as saying by Kingfut.

"We have nothing to lose, all of the pressure is on Zamalek. The fact that Zamalek were happy to draw us, as we are a ‘weaker’ side, will give us a very strong push to defend our jersey.

“We will try and prove why we deserve to be in the quarterfinals. After we qualified from a very tough group that included last year’s champions, Raja Casablanca.

"We’ll be hitting two birds with one stone if we qualify for the semi-finals. First we’ll be improving the image that the club gave during this tournament and we’ll be the first generation of the club to do so. And we’ll also be kicking out one of Africa’s giants.

“We’ll have to be very concentrated and work very hard during the first leg and make the most out of the home fans support. We’ll try to score as many goals as possible and keep a clean sheet.”

Hassania might want to exploit the fact that Zamalek would be without Tunisian midfielder Fejani Sassi and Moroccan forward Hamid Ahadad, who are suspended for accumulating two yellow cards.

Zamalek will also be without injured defender Hazem Emam, midfielder Ayman Hefny and Hazem Emam from the travelling list.

However, defender Mahmoud Alaa returns from the head injury which saw him Zamalek’s last two league games.

Elsewhere, Etoile du Sahel will welcome back to full fitness goalkeeper Makram Bediri when they host Sudanese giants Al Hilal in Sousse.

The Tunisians are keen to add to the four Confederation Cup titles they already have, the last one having been bagged in 2015.

They are coming up against Al Hilal, who are perennial challengers in Caf competitions, but have nothing to show for their efforts to date.

Bediri’s return is good news for Etoile coach Roger Lemerre, who will also be banking on midfielders Mohamed Ben Amor and Iheb Msakni, veteran forward Maher Hannachi and defender Sadam Ben Aziza, who has two goals in this competition so far.

But what could be scary for Etoile is the availability of 20-year-old Al Hilal forward Waleed Bakhet Hamid, who has six goals in this campaign.

Also searching for a fifth Confederation Cup title are Etoile’s fellow Tunisians, Club Sportif Sfaxien, who are in Kitwe to face Nkana FC.

Despite gunning for another title, this might be a tricky outing for Sfaxien, who could become the first team to beat Nkana at home in African competitions in 36 years should they win this match.

Nkana have been invincible at home since 1983, and while Sfaxien could be excited at the prospect of breaking that incredible record, which could be worrisome for the Tunisians.

Sfaxien’s Dutch coach Ruud Krol arrived in Kitwe with a depleted squad, after Alaa Marzouki suffered a dislocated shoulder and his midfield partner Omar Bouraoui sustained a ruptured cruciate ligament.

Ivorian forward Fabrice Kouadio Kouakou and his Togolese striking counterpart Donou Hubert, as well as defender Nassim Hnid and midfielder Mohamed Ali Manser, will also not be part of Sunday’s game due to injuries.

Nkana are also worried about forward Walter Bwalya and Ghanaian defender Richard Ocran, who in a race against time to be fit for the match.

Winger Harrison Chisala and 2012 Afcon-winning midfielder Chisamba Lungu will also miss the match with injuries, but forward Ronald Kampamba, who has three goals this season, is available.

In Nairobi, Gor Mahia coach Hassan Oktay will not be on the bench due to suspension when the Kenyans host Renaissance Sportive Berkane.

Also absent for Gor Mahia are captain Harun Shakava, midfielder Ernest Wendo, left-back Shafik Batambuze and forward Jacques Tuyisenge, who are all suspended.

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Tuyisenge is a major blow, since the Rwandese have scored four goals this season so far, leaving Turkish coach Oktay lacking up front.

“It is a huge miss of course if the coach is not there and four first team players as well. This is tough for us but I have faith in my team, I have faith in the other coaches and I know we will do well. We will surprise Berkane,” Oktay told Cafonline.

Meanwhile. Berkane’s Togolese forward Fo-Doh Kodjo Laba, is expected to continue with the fine form that he brought into the season.