Tuesday Aug 13, 2019. 15:00
Success for Algeria’s top clubs in African club competition at the weekend gave the frontrunners for domestic honours a boost before Thursday’s kick off of the new Ligue 1 season.
Defending champions USM Alger faced a tricky assignment away in Niamey but came away with a 2-1 win over SONIDEP of Niger in the first leg of their African Champions League first round tie.
JS Kabylie, who were runners-up last season and also qualified for the Champions League, had a tough test at home to Al Merreikh but also won, albeit by a lone goal.
They are coached again by Hubert Velud, the Frenchman who also had a brief spell previously at TP Mazembe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and have signed Kenya striker Masoud Juma to strengthen their attack.
USMA, with former Algeria international Billel Dziri new at the helm, will start the defence of their league crown against Entente Setif, who have won four titles in the last eight years but were fifth last season, and then next Monday play the 2018 champions CS Constantine.
It is a baptism of fire for USMA, who are in the midst of a financial crisis and not given much hope of retaining their championship.
JSK open their campaign away at NA Hussein Dey and then host newly promoted US Biskra.
USMA edged JSK by one point to the title in May while Paradou AC were third, five points off the leaders.
Paradou began their African Confederation Cup campaign with a 3-0 home win over Kamsar of Guinea on Friday.
But they have sold last season’s top league goalscorer, Zakaria Naidji, to Gil Vicente in Portugal.
The 24-year-old scored 20 goals in 30 matches and went for a 1,4-million euro fee.
Tipped for success are Mouloudia Alger and Chabab Belouizdad. have been well equipped to start the new exercise with all their strengths.
MCA have Bernard Casoni back as coach and 13 new players, highlighted by Abdelmoumen Djabou from Setif.
Cup winners CRB have also strengthened their squad with 10 new players for coach Abdelkader Amrani to work with.
US Biskra, ASO Chlef and NC Magra are the three promoted clubs. For the latter, it is the first time they will play in the top flight.