Esperance eye trophy win over Wydad Casablanca

Esperance players dancing
Esperance are seeking an away victory over Wydad in the Champions League final

Esperance hope to gain the first-leg advantage when they travel to meet Morocco's Wydad Casablanca in the final Champions League on Sunday.

The Tunisians are hoping to turn the status of perennial runners-up into trophy-winning success.

A crowd of some 70,000 is expected to pack the Mohammed V Stadium when the two former winners meet in Casablanca.

Esperance share the record for the most appearances in the competition since the format changed in 1997.

But their only previous success came 17 years ago when the continent's top club event was still played over two-legged knock-out ties.

They were runners-up in 1999, 2000 and last year, when ugly scenes of crowd violence followed a controversial aggregate loss to TP Mazembe Engelbert of DR Congo.

They have also been beaten semi-finalists three times in the last decade.

"I sense in the players a great determination to win this Champions League and write their names into Tunisian football history," said Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul.

"This is a very special match for the club who have been running after this trophy for many years. For the players, it is the game of their lives."

Opponents Wydad are in the final for the first time since they won in 1992 and have exceeded expectations in reaching the deciding tie.

They were eliminated in the second round in April by holders Mazembe but reinstated after the Congolese club were found to have used an improperly registered player.

Wydad then qualified for the group phase for only the second time and drew twice against Esperance in Group B, finishing three points behind the Tunisians to qualify for the semi-finals.

Wydad's well-travelled Swiss coach Michel Decastel's resume includes a season at Esperance almost a decade ago among his previous jobs in African football.

Wydad's top scorer Fabrice Ondama and key midfielders Mouhcine Iajour are both injury doubts for the first leg.

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