Esperance coach wary of complacency

Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul
Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul is wary of over-confidence as his side tries to be crowned African champions for the first time since 1994

The coach of Tunisia's Esperance has warned against complacency ahead of this weekend's return leg of the African Champions League semi-finals.

The Tunisians host Al Hilal of Sudan on Saturday evening, leading 1-0 from the first leg in Omdurman.

"This match will be very difficult to negotiate, especially mentally - which I fear the most," says Nabil Maaloul.

"We must motivate the players to the highest degree to avoid the inevitable over-confidence in such a situation."

"A player who wins away from home is always a little bit relaxed but we are wary of this."

Maaloul is set to leave Khaled Korbi on the bench as the central midfielder is a suspension away from missing the final.

Esperance will also be without captain Oussama Darragi - who is set to miss the game as a precautionary measure following the ankle knock he picked up during Tunisia's 2-0 win over Togo last Saturday.

There is some good news for Maaloul though with Mejdi Traore returning from injury, while it's been mooted that Harrison Afful will be pushed into midfield to cover for the absentees.

Esperance have not been crowned African champions since 1994 but they did reach last year's final, only to be taken apart by DR Congo's TP Mazembe.

Meanwhile, Al Hilal are hoping that the fact that the game is being played behind closed doors can work in the visitors' favour.

Esperance are serving out a Confederation of African Football punishment following fan violence at a Champions League group match last month.

"Tunisian fans make a lot of noise but not having them there will be a good thing," Al Hilal director Tigani Abusin told BBC Sport.

The Sudanese, who are looking to reach the final of African football's premier club competition for the first time since 1987, must do without Mudathir El Tahir.

The striker was injured during Sudan's Nations Cup defeat to Ghana on Saturday.

However, Abusin is hoping that the change in coach that followed the first-leg defeat can serve as a morale booster for the players.

Serb coach Micho Sredojevic has been replaced by Al Fatih Al Nager.

"We will give it our best in Tunis, but we need a miracle," said Abusin.

"We are hoping to win 1-0 and then make it through on penalties."

Al Hilal must become the first visiting Champions League side to score against Esperance this year and register their first away win if they are to avoid exiting the semi-finals for the third tine in five years.

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