Preview: AS Vita Club, ES Setif ready to make history in Champions League Final

AFP, Saturday 25 Oct 2014


CAF Champions League finalists V Club and Entente Setif square off Sunday in the stadium once graced by Muhammad Ali in the first of two games to decide which club becomes $1.5 million richer.
Also up for grabs is a place at the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco during December with millions more dollars up for grabs.

And there is the possibility of success leading to a showdown with Cristiano Ronaldo and the many other stars of Real Madrid, the major attraction of the annual seven-club tournament.

V Club and Democratic Republic of Congo coach Florent Ibenge labelled Algerians Setif a "very dangerous team" ahead of the first leg.

"Our opponents have a strong defence and fast, dangerous strikers. Scoring twice away to (Congolese) TP Mazembe in the semi-finals was a special achievement," he told reporters.

"This is a tricky mission for us - we have to attack and build a first-leg lead while being ever watchful of the counter-attacking skills of Setif.

"I believe our supporters can play a crucial role as they have done in previous games, encouraging us when we are on top and also when we are not in control."

Setif coach Kheireddine Madoui says the away-goal triumph over four-time champions Mazembe has given his squad the belief that they can conquer Africa.

"It was difficult away to Mazembe - we stayed in a two-star hotel, we faced threatening supporters, and one of our officials sprained an ankle after clashing with stewards.

"But my players displayed incredible spirit in Lubumbashi, refusing to panic when trailing 3-1, and scoring the late goal that took us to the final.

"No one expected Setif to overcame Mazembe, nor did they expect us to eliminate Cameroonians Coton Sport in a qualifier or Tunisians Esperance in the group stage."

Congolese Ndombe Mubele and Algerian El-Hedi Belameiri have scored six Champions League goals each this season to share top spot with two others.

Other V Club stars include Cameroonian goalkeeper Nelson Lukong, defender and captain Simbi Ebunga and midfielder Nelson Munganga.

Ugandan goal poacher Yunus Sentamu has proved a good mid-year signing by Ibenge, snatching the tie-clinching second goal in a semi-final triumph at Tunisians CS Sfaxien.

Setif also boast an outstanding goalkeeper in Abdelwahab Khedairia and the first-leg winner against Mazembe from midfielder Abdelmalek Ziaya must be a contender for Champions League goal of the season.

There was also a massive mid-week boost for Madoui as defenders Abdelghani Demmou and Farid Mellouli and Belameiri passed fitness tests.

V Club host the first leg at the 35,000-capacity Stade Tata Raphael, the Kinshasa venue of the legendary Muhammad Ali-George Foreman 'Rumble in the Jungle' 40 years ago.

Setif have moved the November 1 return fixture from their Stade Mai 8 to the much bigger Stade Mustapha Tchaker in Blida, where the national team play.

Both teams conquered the continent when the premier club competition was called the African Champions Cup, the format was exclusively knockout and there was no prize money.

V Club overcame a two-goal first-leg deficit to defeat Ghanaians Asante Kotoko 5-4 overall in the 1973 final and were runners-up to Algerians JET (now JS Kabylie) eight years later.

Setif first played in the competition in 1987 and went all the way one year later, walloping Nigerians Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland) 4-0 at home having lost narrowly away.

Since the CAF Champions League and prize money were introduced in 1997, V Club and Setif have made little impression and were not considered serious title contenders this season.

But both have deservedly reached the final with V Club surviving a hellish qualifying schedule by eliminating Nigerians Kano Pillars, Zimbabweans Dynamos and South Africans Kaizer Chiefs.

Setif were equally impressive at a later stage, defeating two-time African champions Esperance and holding 2006 runners-up Sfaxien in away group games

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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