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USM Alger look to book CAF Champions League semi-final berth
USM Alger will be looking to book a CAF Champions League semi-final berth today as they travel to El Eulma in the fourth round of the group stage of Africa’s premier competition.
The Algiers-based side, who have won all three of their matches in the group stage so far, can assure themselves a place in the final four with a win against fellow Algerian side MC El Eulma, who sit at the bottom of Group B with three losses.
Despite being without a head coach since May, when German manager Otto Pfister was let go after a string of bad results, USM Alger have still managed to maintain a 100% record in the group stage, with wins against ES Sétif (2-1), El-Merrikh (1-0) and MC El Eulma (2-1). Despite their success, interim coach Miloud Hamdi does not want the team to get ahead of itself. “We are not yet qualified to the semi-finals,” he told the Algerian Press Service. “We still have work to do, a loss against MC El Eulma will change the dynamics of the group.”
USMA’s success has been in large part due to the play of Youcef Belaïli. The Algerian international assisted both goals in the recent win against El Eulma, and scored the lone goal against El-Merrikh. With key players Nacereddine Khoualed, Hamza Koudri and Karim Baïteche unavailable for the trip to El Eulma, the 23-year old attacking midfielder will be called upon again to lead his team today.
USM Alger have only advanced to the semi-final of the competition on one previous occasion in 2003, before losing to eventual champions Enyimba of Nigeria.
In the group’s other match, Sudani club El-Merrikh host last year’s champions ES Sétif in Omdurman. Both sides currently sit on 4 points, and a win for either team will greatly boost their chances of advancing out of the group.