Egypt has three football clubs participating in the semi-finals of Africa’s two biggest team championships. Powerhouses Ahly and Zamalek are taking part in the Champions League whereas Pyramids are in the second tier Confederation Cup.
After several postponements, the matches in the Champions League are set to start on Saturday 17 October when Ahly visit Wydad Casablanca at the Mohamed V Complex in Casablanca before playing the second leg in Cairo on Friday 23 October. Meanwhile, Zamalek will play Raja Casablanca in the first leg in Morocco in the same venue on Sunday 18 October with the second leg taking place in Egypt on Saturday 24 October.
The final will be played 6 November at a venue still to be determined.
The final will be just one game when up until last year it was a two-legged affair.
Attendance for the second leg matches in Egypt will be determined after consultation with the relevant authorities.
According to the guidelines of the African Football Association (CAF) for resuming football in Africa and public health measures in Morocco due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be restricted media attendance for the first leg semi-final matches of the Total CAF Champions League and Final Four of the Total CAF Confederation Cup 2019/20.
A CAF statement said that after consultations with local health authorities and in accordance with social distancing protocols, it was decided that media attendance will be limited to only two persons from each of the participating teams: the club press officer and photographer.
No other accreditation request from media outlets will be considered.
Arrangements are being made to stream the pre-match and post-match press conferences on specified CAF digital platforms for media representatives to follow the activities before, during and after the games.
Egyptian fans will be looking forward to the Champions League as they follow the first leg semi-final of the two most popular football clubs in Africa and the Middle East, Ahly and Zamalek, aiming at an all-Egyptian final, despite the rivalry between the two giants.
Ahly and Wydad have played against each other eight times since 2011 with each team winning twice and drawing in the four other encounters.
Wydad have been in the CAFCL semi-finals five times. They have advanced four times. Wydad have lost just two of their last 10 games in the competition (5 wins 3 draws), but they are unbeaten in their last 26 home matches in the CAFCL, (22 wins, 4 draws). Their last home defeat in the competition was given to them by Ahly on 27 July 2016. The Moroccan team have kept only two clean sheets out of their 10 games in the CAFCL this term and have failed to score at home only once.
Ahly, who have won the Champions League a record eight times but whose last title was in 2013, have been in the semi-finals of the CAFCL 15 times. They have progressed 12 times. They are unbeaten in their last seven matches in the competition (4 wins, 3 draws). The Red Devils have lost twice in their four visits to Wydad in the CAFCL (1 win, 1 draw).
Ahly have conceded in each of their last four away matches in the CAFCL, failing to score only once in the process, but have kept seven clean sheets out of their 12 games in the CAFCL this term.
On the other hand, Raja Club Athletic and Zamalek had faced each other only twice in the final of the 2002 CAF Champions League final, drawing 0-0 in the first leg match and Zamalek winning 1-0 in Cairo in the second leg match.
Raja have been at the CAFCL semi-finals five times, where they advanced four times. Raja have lost only two of their last 19 matches in the CAFCL (10 wins, 7 draws). They have recorded only one defeat in their last 22 home games in the CAFCL (13 wins, 8 draws).
Raja have won one and drew two of their last three home games against Egypt clubs in the CAFCL. This includes 0-0 with Zamalek in 2002.
Raja have kept six clean sheets out of their 12 matches in the CAFCL this campaign.
Zamalek have been to the semi-finals of the CAFCL on nine occasions, having progressed seven times. They have just two losses from their last nine CAFCL matches (4 wins, 3 draws). The White Knights have only one win in their last 13 away matches in the competition (9 losses, 3 draws).
Zamalek have lost only one of their last six visits to Morocco in the CAF competitions (2 wins, 3 draws).
The Egyptian giants have managed to keep four clean sheets from their eight CAFCL games this campaign.
Ahly vs Pyramids
On Monday, Raja won their 12th league title and their first in seven years. Raja and their rivals Wydad had entered the last game of the season just one point apart.
In CAF’s second tier competition, the Total CAF Confederation Cup 2019/20, which CAF decided to go with as a ‘Final Four’ to be played at Mohamed V Complex in Casablanca, the semi-finals will take place on 19 and 20 October whereas the final will be held on 25 October. The first semi-final will see RS Berkane of Morocco playing against fellow Moroccans HUSA at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Rabat, while the second semi-final will feature Pyramids of Egypt against Horoya of Guinea, also at Mohamed V Complex. The winners will play the final on 25 October at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat.
Pyramids are making their first appearance. And, it has been an impressive one so far, with the game’s critics believing the Egyptian team, playing in only their second year, are favourites to win the title. Pyramids’ road to the semis saw the team playing 14 matches, winning 11, drawing one and losing two. They scored 29 goals and conceded seven.
In the preliminary round of the competition, Pyramids beat Etoile du Congo 5-1 on aggregate before beating Algeria’s CR Belouizdad 2-1 on aggregate in the first round. In the play-off round Pyramids won 5-1 on aggregate to qualify for the group stage to play in Group A where they finished the group in first place winning five matches, losing one and no draws.
Pyramids scored 14 goals and have three goals against. Debutants Pyramids knocked down Enugu Rangers of Nigeria, Nouadhibou of Mauritania and fellow countrymen Masri. In the quarter-final, Pyramids beat Zanaco of Zambia 3-1 on aggregate before sports was suspended in the world because of the pandemic, which lead to putting the competition on hold.
Pyramids’ semi-final opponent Horoya of Guinea had finished Group B in first place winning four, drawing two, no defeats, scoring eight goals and conceding one.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly