The stringent Covid-19 protocols and a tight schedule of upcoming fixtures have been stated as reasons behind why Wydad Casablanca brought their second-string team to play Kaizer Chiefs in their penultimate CAF Champions League match over the weekend.
Having already qualified for the quarter-finals, Wydad arrived in South Africa minus Ahmed Tagnaouti, Taha Mourid, Ayoub El Amloud, Salah Saidi, Walid El Karti, Muaid Ellafi, Simon Msuva, Mohammed Ounajem, Amine Aboulfath, Achraf Dari, Yahya Jabrane, Aymane Hassouni, Ayoub El Kaabi, Yahia Attiyat allah as well as their head coach Faouzi Benzarti.
The other team qualifying from Group C will be determined by the outcome of the game between Chiefs and Horoya in Conakry, Guinea on Saturday.
"Wydad know that they had already qualified for the group stages, so they chose to let the first-team rest in Casablanca so that they prepare for their congested line of upcoming fixtures. The game against Chiefs wasn’t so important," Moroccan journalist Nassim El Kerf tells KickOff.com.
Wydad were on the road at Rapide Oued Zem on Wednesday and host Petro Luanda on Saturday in the final group match of the Champions League and will have another four games to play before the end of this month.
"The league here is tough because most of the teams are at the same level and Wydad want to retain their place on top of the standings. They took the decision of bringing the second-team for the Chiefs game because when you come back to Morocco, protocol dictates that you go into quarantine for up to 15 days when flying in from countries considered to be in the red zone like South Africa and England," El Kerf explains.
"The players who went to South Africa arrived the day after the game and went into quarantine. Those players are not as important as the ones who stayed behind who are the ones that will play the league game tomorrow. They didn’t want to take the risk of getting covid-19 while away when they have so many games to play this month. Our season must end by June, but we are behind because we had to take a break to play in the CHAN with the season having started late.
"I think it was a smart decision by Wydad to send second team to South Africa because they can now still continue to count on their best players in the important games. They didn’t want to take any risk plus they so desperately want to win the league this year after losing it to Raja right at the end last season. The priority for them is to win the league this season and the Champions League is secondary.
"They are the best team in Morocco right now. I think the game against Petro on Saturday at home is an easy one for them since it is difficult to win as an away team here in Casablanca. Chiefs are the ones who still have all the work to do come Saturday."