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Preview: Ahly aim to capitalise on Esperance's poor form in Confed Cup

Second-placed Ahly can book place in semis with a win in Tunis, but are missing several players

Ahram Online , Friday 21 Aug 2015
El-Saied
Abdallah El-Saied scores Ahly's first goal against Esperance in game 1. (Photo: Ahram)
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Ahly will be looking to take full advantage of the dismal form that has pinned Esperance to the bottom of their Confederation Cup group. The clubs meet in the penultimate group-stage game at Rades Stadium, Tunisa, on Saturday.

Once considered fierce rivals of Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek, this Esperance team hardly resemble the side which threatened the Egyptians' dominance over African club competitions in recent decades.

Esperance's current position jars with their status as two-time Champions League winners. They encountered Ahly in the tournament's final in 2012, with the Red Devils emerging 3-2 aggregate winners over their North African rivals after an emphatic 2-1 away victory in the second leg. 

Ahly, Zamalek and Esperance are all in the Confederation Cup this year but will hope to return to the Champions League group-stage next time around.

That Esperance have become a shadow of their old selves was confirmed in the Confederation Cup group-stage opener in June, when Ahly coasted to a 3-0 win in Cairo.

Esperance then continued to drop points in their next two games, losing 1-0 to national rivals Etoile du Sahel before slumping to a 2-1 home defeat by Mali's Stade Malien.

Esperance have, however, got their act together since then, winning 1-0 away to Stade Malien in their next match to claim their first points of a so far nightmarish campaign.

Whether they can build on that win over Stade Malien when they host Ahly remains to be seen, but a recent domestic cup defeat suggests Esperance may well struggle on Sunday.

A 2-1 comeback in extra-time by league stragglers Hammam-Lif condemned them to a quarter-final exit from their domestic cup. Esperance must now make amends against more celebrated opposition in Ahly.

"We are ready to face Ahly. I know all too well that we face the continent's biggest club," Esperance boss Jose Anigo, whose post seemed under threat following his side's cup exit, said.

"I respect Ahly's pedigree and the quality of the players they boast, but we have no option but to win, especially as the game is in our homeland.''

"A win would give us a much-needed boost and continue our fight for a semi-final berth."

Beating Ahly will be anything but easy for Esperance though, as they will be facing a team, quite unlike themselves, going into the game on the back of an emphatic 5-0 cup win, over Ittihad El-Shorta.

Ahly team news

Nevertheless they will hope Ahly are affected by their absentees, with striker Amr Gamal ruled out due to a lack of match fitness.

Newly-signed Saleh Goma, who featured Ahly's 1-0 defeat at Etoile du Sahel, is also out with a knee injury that saw him miss Ahly's two latest wins.

Similarly, right-back Ahmed Fathi will not play due to an injury he sustained against Ittihad El-Shorta, but Bassem Ali should be there to deputise.

Ahmed Abdel-Zaher completes the list of major absentees - he has been omitted due to technical reasons.

But summer signings John Antwi, who came on as a second-half sub against Etoile, and Malick Evouna – yet to make his African debut – will be there to lead the attack alongside veteran Emad Meteb.

Ahly are second in Group A with seven points, two adrift of leaders Etoile du Sahel, while Esperance are rooted to the bottom with three.

Wins for Ahly and Etoile, who visit Stade Malien, would take both teams to the semi-finals with a match to spare.
 

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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