Esperance to test Pirates’ mettle

Esperance to test Pirates’ mettle
Ayman Ben Mohamed of Esperance challenged by Ben Motshwari of Orlando Pirates during the CAF Champions League match between Orlando Pirates and Esperance 02 February 2019 at Orlando Stadium Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Monday Feb 11, 2019. 13:00

Esperance de Tunis will look to test the mettle of Orlando Pirates when the teams meet at Stade El Menzah for a CAF Champions League Group B match on Tuesday afternoon. Kick-off will be at 15h00 CAT.

This will be the second successive meeting of the Blood and Gold and the Buccaneers, as they played out a 0-0 draw at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto on February 2.

The result left the teams tied at the top of the Group B table on five points apiece, but they have Guinea’s Horoya breathing down their necks on four points. Zimbabwe’s Platinum complete the quartet with one point.

Playing away in North Africa is always a huge challenge, but Pirates have perhaps been handed something of an advantage because the match will played behind closed doors.

This is the second home match for Esperance played at an empty stadium (following their 2-0 win over Platinum at the same venue last month) as part of their punishment for crowd trouble during the second leg of the final against Al Ahly last year.

The lack of atmosphere and playing in the warmer conditions of the afternoon may suit Bucs, though this past weekend they had an emotionally and physically draining 1-1 draw with Soweto derby rivals Kaizer Chiefs.

“Being a goal down we didn’t give up, we showed the character and came out and scored that goal,” said Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic after the high-profile clash.

“We could have scored more. It was not meant to be, we wanted to win, we gave everything. However, it remains 1-1, we need to pick the pieces and look forward.”

Esperance coach Mouine Chaabani admitted his respect for Pirates after the match in Soweto and expects a tough return game.

“Orlando Pirates is amongst one of the best teams in Africa – as we’ve mentioned before, they previously beat us in Tunis [in the 2013 Champions League semifinal],” he explained.

The other Group B match sees Horoya host Platinum in Conakry, with kick-off also at 15h00 CAT. The match in Tunis will be refereed by Burundi official Thierry Nkurunziza.

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