USM Alger take on Mazembe in African Champions League final
Star studded TP Mazembe are seeking their fifth African Champions League crown. USM Alger are the underdogs in the encounter which will unfold over two legs in Algiers and Lubumbashi.
USM Alger host TP Mazembe on Saturday in the first leg of the CAF Champions League final.
Apart from continental acclaim, the winner will be Africa's representative at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December.
In that competition there's the chance to play against the likes of Neymar, Luis Suarez and a host of other South American and Asian stars.
USM - coached by Miloud Hamdi - are in their first final while TP Mazembe are seeking their fifth crown. Victory after next week's second leg would place them alongside the Egyptian giants Zamalek but still three titles behind Al Ahly.
Mazembe last won the title in 2010 before North African sides took a stranglehold on the trophy since. The Congolese go into the final as favoruites. Under the leadership of 45-year-old Frenchman Patrice Carteron, they boast homegrown stars as well as imports from Ghana, Cote D'Ivoire, Mali and Zambia.
Such is the strength of the competition that Sylvain Gbohouo, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Cote D'Ivoire last January, is second choice to Congolese veteran Muteba Kidiaba.
Famous for his 'bouncing-bottom' goal celebrations, Kidiaba is but one household name with the others including Zambia midfielder Rainford Kalaba and Tanzania striker Mbwana Samatta.
Hamdi has warned his USM squad not to be overawed by the Mazembe maestros ahead of the first match at the 17,500-capacity Stade Omar Hamadi.
"If we get into thinking and feeling that Mazembe are a big successful club which has won lots of titles, then we might as well give them the cup and stay at home. But we don't want to do that. We want to try and go for the glory. I'm not saying that we will win but what is certain is that we will go out and give everything."
USM have displayed exceptional form at home on their way to the final, winning six consecutive qualifying and group games racking up 14 goals before a 0-0 semi-final stalemate with Al Hilal of Sudan.
USM could afford to be cautious against Hilal having built a 2-1 away lead through Mohamed Aoudia and Karim Baiteche goals.
The most impressive victory was a 3-0 group drubbing of fellow Algerians Entente Setif, which eliminated the defending champions.
Mazembe have been poor on the road in the tournament, having won only one of six away games. They drew two and lost three, all by single-goal margins.
Carteron, who led Mali to third place at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, said he has told his players to be mentally prepared for the two games. "My players need to be positive and happy," he said. "We crave success and will do everything to win the first game."
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