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Darko Novic: Entente Setif coach plots Al Ahly surprise in African Champions League

Darko Novic, coach of the Entente Setif
Darko Novic has spent time coaching the Libyan national team

Entente Setif coach Darko Novic hopes to build on his previous experiences in the African Champions League as he plots an upset against defending champions Al Ahly in the semi-finals.

The 50-year-old Serb met Egyptian heavyweights in the quarterfinals in 2007, when he was an assistant to Branko Smiljanic at Libyan side Al Ittihad.

“It was a very good experience because I saw how Branko dealt with that match and how to prepare a strategy,” Novic told BBC Sport Africa.

“I was in my first year in Libya and my second year as a coach. After that, Al Ahly did a lot of good things and wrote history.”

Al Ahly won that two-leg tie 1-0 on aggregate, but lost the final to Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel.

Since then, however, the Cairo-based giants have won a further five African Champions League titles, including the last two, becoming a record 10-time winners.

“Of course now it’s a totally different match, with a totally different environment,” Novic added.

“I am very happy because I will face the biggest club and gain more experience. The level is very high, the teams are very well prepared.”

Novic has coached and managed throughout North Africa and the Middle East, including spells with the Libyan national team and Tripoli’s Al Madina, but last weekend he was thrust into the spotlight after being put in charge of the Algerian team Setif for the second leg. of the quarterfinals against Esperance of Tunisia.

A first-half goal from captain Abdelmoumene Djabou was enough to seal an away win and a 1-0 aggregate win, giving Novic a famous win in his first match on the bench.

Entente Setif players celebrate the 1-0 victory over Esperance of Tunisia
Novic looks to lead Entente Setif to a third African Champions League title

“Winning in Tunisia is not easy at all, because you have a high-quality team ahead of you,” he said.

“My problem was how to compete with them and how to keep my players at a high level of concentration and give them confidence.

“You need to focus, have a bit of luck and stay compact throughout the match. In the end it was good for us, giving us a chance to play the next round.”

The Serbian looks to seize the opportunity with Setif

Novic will face one of Africa’s most successful coaches, Pitso Mosimane, when Setif visit Ahly in the first leg of their semi-final.

South Africa’s Mosimane is aiming for his fourth Champions League win, having won with Mamelodi Sundowns in 2016 before guiding Ahly to consecutive wins.

Novic understands that fans of Sétif, who won the continental crown in 1988 and 2014, have high expectations, but he himself is not looking too far ahead.

“When you are a coach you aspire to do something great, and when opportunities arise you try to take advantage of them,” he said.

“I think in North Africa all the big teams have a big fan base. Their expectations are always to be at the top, but you can’t promise those things. What you can only promise is good work and respect.”

“I really don’t think about the future. We’ll go from game to game and then we’ll see where we are. I feel like I’ve been here for a long time and for me that’s enough.”