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Raja announce two COVID-19 cases ahead of semi-final clash against Zamalek

By Shafic Kiyaga
Courtesy photo

Moroccan side Raja Casablanca has announced that two of their first-team players have tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of their CAF Champions League semi-final clash against Zamalek.

Raja is set to host the first leg of the semi-final at the Mohamed V Complex, Casablanca on Sunday.

A statement released by the club announced that two unnamed first team players had tested positive for the coronavirus in the latest round of games.

The statement also said that the said players will now undergo treatment for COVID-19 and will isolate themselves away from the rest of the squad.

Raja has recently secured the club’s 12th league title following a dramatic last gasp victory over FUS Rabat to beat rivals Wydad Casablanca to the title by just a single point.

However, the Green Devils head coach Jamal Sellami says he has ‘high confidence’ that his players can get over the tie, adding that their league triumph should act as a boost in their continental mission.

“This is a very important game for us. We had just won the Moroccan League and now we must shift our attention to the continental mission,” Sellami said ahead of the game.

“Games between teams from Morocco and Egypt are always tough and are decided by the smallest of details. I have high confidence in my players.”

“Our target is to win the Champions League for the fourth time,” he added.

Raja has been to the CAF Champions League semi-finals five times and have advanced on four occasions, while they have lost just one of their last 22 home games in the competition.

Overall, they have won 10 and drawn seven of their last 19 champions league games keeping six clean sheets in 12 of those games.

The Moroccan champions will be without defenders Abdeljalil Jbira, Abderrahim Achchakir, and Omar Boutayeb through injury. Midfielder Sanad Al Ouarfali is also a big doubt.

Their opponents Zamalek have a bit of fatigue to worry about going into an important game like this. Zamalek has played five games in 15 days leading up to this semi-final.

But for a team which has progressed to the final on seven of the last nine occasions they have made it to this stage including losing just one of their last six visits to Morocco, they should surely fancy their chances.

“We played five games in 15 days and my players are exhausted, and hopefully this will not reflect on such an important game,” Zamalek head coach Jaime Pacheco who has only been in charge of the club since September said.  

“It’s a game of two halves and the second leg will decide who goes to the final. Having the return leg at home is an advantage but only theoretically. All the semi-finalists are good teams and chances are equal.”

“We are facing the Moroccan champions, whom I congratulate on winning the league. We will show our character and ambition because our target is to reach the final,” Pacheco added.

Raja is yet to register a victory over their semi-final opponents.

The last time Raja played Zamalek was in the 2002 Champions League final, Zamalek prevailed 1-0 on aggregate to lift their last champions league trophy to date.  

The two giants share 10 continental titles between themselves.

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