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Thursday, 04 March 2021

Preview: Egypt's Ahly kick off CL group stage with visit to Zambia's ZESCO

Ahly open their Champions League last-eight campaign at Zambia's ZESCO on Saturday at 15:30 CLT (13:30 GMT)

Omar Zaazou , Friday 17 Jun 2016
ZESCO
Ahly and Egypt defender Ahmed Hegazy to boost the Cairo giants' backline against ZESCO United (Photo: Reuters)
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Ahly will be hoping to get back to Africa's winning podium once again when they kick off their CAF Champions League group-stage with a visit to Zambia's ZESCO United in Ndola on Saturday.

Having last won the prestigious title in 2013, the Cairo giants will be setting their eyes on a record-extending ninth Champions League trophy this time around.

They are not expected to have a smooth passage to the semi-finals though, having been drawn in a tough Group A along with Morocco's Wydad Casablanca and Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas.

Zambian league holders ZESCO are broadly considered the outsiders of the group. Their biggest achievement on the continental front was reaching the Champions League group stage in 2009.

Egyptian league leaders Ahly will be also looking to make the most of some crucial absences in their opponents' squad, most notably the absence of Zambian league top-scorer Jesse Were due to automatic suspension.

But it's not only the absence of the Kenyan striker whose ZESCO's attacking department will be affected by, with another hitman in Idris Mbombo also sitting out.

Ahly, on the other side, are not particularly going to the game at full strength, with a host of absentees likely to take a toll on them as well.

Like their opponents, Ahly's attack will be missing Gabon striker Malick Evouna, Amr Gamal and playmaker Abdallah El-Said due to respective injuries – with the latter sidelined for at least six weeks.

This means Dutch manager Martin Jol would most probably rely on Ghanaian striker John Antwi to spearhead his side's attack, as Saleh Gomaa would be offering support from behind.

Moemen Zakareya was initially declared doubtful for the away fixture after sustaining a minor knock during the recent 3-2 defeat against Masry, but is likely to take part in the game.

Center-back Ahmed Hegazy is expected to return to his spot in Ahly's defence, after a hamstring injury kept him out of the team's recent two league games.  

It is not the first time for Ahly to meet unfancied side ZESCO, having faced off before in the 2011 Champions League last-16, with the Egyptians claiming a 1-0 aggregate to advance.

ASEC and main rivals Wydad will be clashing in the other group game at the same time.

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