The CAF Champions League semi finals take centre stage this weekend with four sides looking to add a continental crown to their cabinets.
Kaizer Chiefs, the last South African club remaining in the competition, travel to Morocco to face Wydad in the first leg of their CAF Champions League semi-final, knowing fully that they are the underdogs remaining in the tournament.
4 – The last four Champions League titles have been won by Al Ahly, Esperance (2) & Wydad, three of this season’s semi-finalists.
Chiefs are swimming in deep waters.
Yet, they have already made history by making it to this stage of the competition – a first for the club. Having come this far, they will have their eyes set on the big prize, and will not be content with just making up the numbers.
The two sides met already in this competition, including one match that Chiefs will want to forget pretty quickly.
4 – Chiefs lost 4-0 to Wydad Casablanca at the end of February, their joint-worst defeat in all competitions since the PSL was established in 1996 (also 4-0 v Esperance in 2005).
That said, Chiefs got their revenge winning 1-0 against the same opponent at the beginning of April, albeit against a weakened side. Qualifying for next season’s Top 8 on the final league day would have been a further boost to a Chiefs side whose tumultuous season culminated with the departure of coach Gavin Hunt that brought them this far. Their away form is a rather accurate representation of the season Chiefs have had:
1 – Chiefs have won just two of their last 13 matches away from home since the end of January, drawing six and losing the other five.
Nevertheless, those two wins were both statement wins. The first came against a Mamelodi Sundowns team that were unbeaten all season, putting an end to their dreams of being invincible. The other away win came on the last day of the season against TS Galaxy – a match that was widely billed a Top8 playoff final. Wydad will be well aware of Chiefs’ knack for pulling off major wins when least expected, but still confident about their history in Morocco:
2 – Chiefs have lost both away matches against Moroccan opposition since the PSL was established, failing to score on both occasions (2-0 away to Raja Casablanca in 2015, and 4-0 to Wydad this year).
The two-week rest may give Chiefs a slight advantage over Wydad, who are in the middle of their season, but it could also mean Wydad are more match-fit than their visitors. Wydad are chasing a Cup double of their own and lead the Botola Pro (the Moroccan top division) by three points with eight games to play. As far as form is concerned, they are on a good run.
1 – Since losing to Chiefs in April, Wydad have played 18 games in all competitions, and lost just once, drawing six and winning the other 11.
While Chiefs have only played Moroccan opponents four times in the PSL era, their hosts are familiar with South African opponents. Although the majority of those matches were against Sundowns, they have played 12 matches against SA sides since 2017, with a record of Won 5 Drew 3 Lost 4.
5 – This is the 5th successive year that Wydad will be playing a South African opponent (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021).
Other fixtures – Esperance v Al Ahly
The other semi-final sees Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly face off against Tunisian champions Esperance in the earlier kickoff (18:00 SA time).
It’s a heavyweight clash between two sides who have both won their last five titles in their respective countries. However, Al Ahly have enjoyed a better head-to-head record when the two sides have met.
1 – Al Ahly have lost just one of the eleven matches played against Esperance in the last decade, drawing five and winning six.
By Opta Jabu