JOHANNESBURG, South Africa– Goal-shy Esperance will look to Abdelraouf Benguit as they attempt to overcome a 3-1 away defeat by Zamalek when they host the second leg of their CAF Champions League quarter-final on Friday.
Chasing a record third straight title, the Tunisian club have been poor at home in Africa this season, twice winning narrowly and twice drawing while scoring only five times.
Although a midfielder, Algerian Benguit is the leading Esperance scorer in Africa with three goals, including the one that gave them the lead away to Egyptian outfit Zamalek.
Should Zamalek succeed, the semi-finals could be contested by Egyptian and Moroccan clubs with Al Ahly from Cairo and Raja and Wydad from Casablanca holding 2-0 aggregate leads.
If Esperance are eliminated by Zamalek they will be the third consecutive defending champions to fall at the quarter-finals stage.
Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa lost on penalties in 2017 to Wydad, who exited at the same stage the following season to Entente Setif of Algeria.
Esperance have won just one of eight CAF clashes with Zamalek — the second leg of the 1994 Champions League final after a goalless first encounter.
Record eight-time African champions Ahly take a remarkable domestic league record into the second leg against Sundowns in Pretoria.
The Cairo Red Devils have won 16 consecutive matches under Swiss coach Rene Weiler since the 2019/2020 Egyptian Premier League kicked off, scoring 45 goals and conceding just three.
Tunisian Ali Maaloul scored twice within 12 minutes to give Ahly the advantage as they seek revenge for a 5-1 aggregate drubbing by Sundowns at the same stage last season.
Tunisian outfit Etoile Sahel hope Karim Aribi can rediscover his scoring touch when they try to overturn the deficit against Wydad.
After scoring seven goals in three qualifiers, the Algerian found it harder to find the net in the six-round group phase, adding only three for a total of 10.
The individual scoring record for a Champions League season is 13 goals set by Nigerian Stephen Worgu of Enyimba in 2008.
Opposing coaches Pamphile Kazembe of TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Jamal Sellami of Raja have been Champions League winners as players.
Kazembe was part of the victorious 2009 and 2010 Mazembe teams while fellow midfielder Sellami helped Raja conquer Africa in 1997.
The first Raja goal in Casablanca was scored by former Mazembe forward Ben Malango, whose transfer was hotly disputed, forcing FIFA to intervene.
Esperance vice-president Hechmi Jilani says most clubs lose money by competing in the Champions League — even those who pocket the $2.5 million (2.25 mn euros) first prize.
He said at least half the winnings usually go to the players, and travel costs are enormous in the vast continent with the Tunis club sometimes using chartered flights to save time.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino touched on the subject recently, saying: “Some African clubs with millions of supporters have to pay in order to compete in CAF competitions.”