Esperance wary of Wydad in African Champions final
Coach Nabil Maaloul will warn his Esperance team before the first leg of the African Champions League final in Morocco on Sunday that the Wydad Casablanca footballer with the figure 28 on his shirt poses a grave threat.
Said Fettah is a slighlty built 25-year-old who joined his childhood favourites Wydad at the beginning of this year from arch-rivals Raja Casablanca and the Tunisian handler considers shackling him a priority.
"He is among the cornerstones of the Wydad team -- a technically very gifted player," Maaloul said ahead of a two-match showdown many observers consider too close to call after they drew twice in the group phase.
"We have got to find ways of preventing the ball getting to Fettah because nearly all the best Wydad moves involve him. My players need to extra careful with Said," stressed the 48-year-old former Esperance midfielder to the Tunisian media.
Fettah prefers to highlight the team spirit that has taken his club to the brink of a second African Champions League title with the first coming 19 years ago when they overcame Sudanese side Al-Hilal 2-0 overall.
"This Wydad squad is a very tight group that plays with great team spirit. We belong to an open and friendly club and the players often come to games with their families," he boasted.
"We have ambitions at national, continental and global levels and our immediate priority is defeating Esperance and qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan," Fettah told reporters in the Moroccan commercial capital.
But the national squad midfielder would not be drawn into predicting the likely outcome against 1994 champions Esperance, nor would Swiss coach Michel Decastel who joined the Moroccan outfit in mid-year for a second spell at the controls.
"Wydad promise to give their best in what will be a tough final. There can be no excuses should we fail as our preparations have been thorough," the silver-haired handler conceded.
"All the credit for reaching the final must go to the players. I am so proud of them for the way they interpret and execute instructions. It has meant a wonderful second spell at the club for me."
Maaloul said his ambitions were to complete a treble after winning the national league and cup and to atone for a record-equalling 6-1 drubbing in the 2010 African Champions League final by TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Esperance had a player red carded during a five-goal first-leg hiding in Lubumbashi and the return match was completed in a near-empty stadium on the outskirts of Tunis after crowd trouble.
"I am desperate to make amends to Tunisians, especially supporters of Esperance. After completing a double at home, victory over Wydad would seal a memorable year for the club."
While Wydad came from two goals down at home to draw 2-2 with Esperance and a far less lively return game finished goalless, Ghana-born Esperance defender Harrison Afful believes a memorable final is on the cards.
"Wydad are physically and mentally strong and play good football like we do so the scene is set for two great games. I believe our determination and unity could prove decisive," he said.
Afful and Maaloul consider playing in Morocco first an advantage -- a very slight one judged by final records with 22 African champions playing at home in the first leg and 23 champions playing away.
Tunis hosts the return match on November 12 and the overall winners pocket 1.5 million dollars and stand in line to earn a lot more cash when competing at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan during December.
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