Club Africain host MAS in Confederation Cup first leg

Club Africain and Tunisia's Zouhaier Dhaouadi
Zouhaier Dhaouadi could be a key figure for Tunisia's Club Africain in the Confederation Cup final

Tunisia's Club Africain host MAS of Morocco behind closed doors on Saturday in the first leg of a Confederation Cup final overshadowed by tense relations between the countries.

Moroccan politicians complained during the week at the treatment of some Wydad Casablanca fans in Tunis for the African Champions League final second leg against Esperance.

A diplomatic protest to their Tunisian counterparts said excessive force was used by police during a match won by the home team.

There was also trouble at the airport in Tunis before fans flew home to Morocco.

However the ban on fans this weekend is not linked to these incidents.

Club Africain had already been given a two-match ban for crowd trouble during a group game against Asec Mimosas of Ivory Coast.

The 91-year-old Tunis club were also fined US$100,000 and warned that they would be barred from Confederation of African Football competitions if supporters caused further trouble.

The Champions League final saw just a solitary goal scored in 180 tense minutes as Esperance beat Wydad and it would be no surprise if the two-leg Confederation Cup final proved equally close.

Form en route to the final of the second-tier African club competition, which has a US$660,000 first prize, suggests that the away-goals rule or even a penalty shoot-out might be necessary to separate the teams.

Both sides won and lost against InterClube of Angola and both won and drew against Sunshine Stars of Nigeria as they advanced to the final.

Tunisian clubs have won the competition three times and Moroccan clubs twice since it replaced the African Cup Winners Cup and Cad Cup tournaments seven years ago.

Midfielder Zouhaier Dhaouadi and Chad-born striker Ezechiel Ndouassel have been key figures for Club Africain as they seek international glory 20 years after lifting the African Champions Cup, the forerunner to the African Champions League.

Dhaouadi was a pivotal figure as Tunisia won the African Nations Championship for home-based footballers last February.

The midfielder captains Club Africain and his contributions for club and country earned him a nomination for 2011 Caf African Footballer of the Year (based on the continent) with the winner to be announced during December.

Physically imposing Ndouassel needs a boost after Chad were eliminated from the 2014 World Cup qualifiers this week and Sunshine Stars can vouch for his predatory instincts as he scored the goal that settled a semi-final last month.

MAS also boast a match-winner in Chemseddine Chtibi, whose unstoppable drive seven minutes into stoppage time took the Moroccans to the final at the expense of InterClube.

He has contributed four of the 24 goals scored by MAS in 16 African outings, one less than Hamza Abourazzouk and Tarik Sektioui.

The return match is scheduled for Fes on December 4 and apart from the prize money and prestige, the winning club take on Esperance next year for the African Super Cup.

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