Esperance check in for Gor Mahia clash
Gor Mahia’s opponents in the second round of preliminary qualifiers of the Caf Champions League, Esperance de Tunis arrived in the country Monday morning.
The Tunisian-based club touched down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and drove straight to Machakos ahead of Wednesday’s first leg encounter at the Kenyatta Stadium.
The Sousse-based team is currently under the tutelage of 61-year old Tunisian Khaled Ben Yahia, who took up the job in January 2 from Faouza Benzarti.
Yahia, who is on his third stint as Esperance coach, was also a former central defender at the club, before transforming as a coach. During his tenure, he won the championship and the Tunisian Cup (2006), as well as Gafsa’s El Gawafel cup.
“I know what is on their (Gor’s) mind is revenge for what happened in 2014. We however cannot underestimate the team because they have done some massive modifications to their team in the last four years, and are much stronger than they were in 2014. Having won over us in 1987 also gives them some confidence so we shall tread carefully and hope for victory,” Yahya said.
Yahya will however have to do without the services of Ali Machani and Montassar Talbi who are both nursing injuries.
Local champions Gor Mahia are bracing for the herculean battle which will kick-off at 3pm as they aspire to secure a group stage berth.
Esperance are ranked second in the Africa Football Club rankings, and beat Mauritania’s ASAC Concorde 5-0 and drew 1-1 away to sail through to the next round on a 6-1 aggregate win.
K’Ogalo on the other hand, drew 1-1 with Equatoguinean champions Leones Vegetarianos in Malabo and beat them 2-0 in Nairobi to eliminate them 3-1 on aggregate.
While K’Ogalo are making a return to the tournament after failing to qualify for the club competition last year, Esperance are perennial participants in CAF club competitions, and won the Champions League in 1994 and 2011.
Gor’s last triumph in such a competition was in 1987 in the Africa Cup Winners Cup against Esperance as they forced a 2-2 draw away in Tunis, before battling to a 1-1 draw in the second leg at Kasarani.
In 2014, the clubs met again in the preliminary round of Champions League qualifiers with the Kenyan side losing 3-2 at home and 5-0 away in the two-legged tie.
The match will be handled by Egyptian referee Gehad Zaghloul Grisha, and he will be assisted by Moroccan Redouane Achik and Sudanese Waleed Ahmed Ali.
Esperance Squad: Ben Cherifia, Jemal, Karoui, Derbali, Dhaouadi, Chammam, Meskini, Rabi, Ben Mohamed, Coulibaly, Kom, Moncer, Bguir, Ben Hatira, Besseghair, Badri, Belaili, Khenissi, Jouini, Rejaïbi and Mejri.