Ahly will be looking for a win when they host Tunisian giants Esperance in the CAF Champions League last-eight first leg at Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab Stadium on Saturday.
With the Champions League resuming after more than two months since the end of the group stage, Ahly will be eager to make it to the semi-final in their bid to return to the African winning podium.
However, Group C winners Esperance - who were not dealt a single defeat in the group stage - will be standing in the Cairo giants’ way, with the Tunisians eyeing the continental title after being crowned Arab champions last summer.
Even so, Ahly assistant manager Ahmed Ayoub seems to have full confidence in his side’s ability to overcome the Esperance hurdle, while still bearing in mind the caliber of the opponent they will face.
“Esperance are very organized team and are now totally different from what they were two years ago,” Ahly assistant manager Ayoub said.
“They have an abundance of attackers in their squad and several international players in the Tunisian national team.
“However, I have trust in our players who have the needed experience to overcome such situations.
“The meeting is like an early Champions League final since it features the strongest two teams in the Arab world.”
Ahly go into the game on the back of a controversial 1-1 Egyptian league draw with Talae El-Geish, a match were the Reds were controversially denied three legitimate penalties.
The Cairo side, however, looked to have put the game behind their back with a 6-0 warm-up win over lower-tier Gouna as they geared up for the Esperance clash.
The home side will be boosted by 20,000 of their ardent fans cheering on them from the stands following attempts to allow a bigger number of supporters to attend the game by the club’s board.
Moreover, the return of Tunisia left-back Ali Maaloul, attacking midfielders Saleh Gomaa and Moemen Zakareya means Ahly are now at full strength, after the trio missed the league opener against Geish with respective injuries.
Summer arrivals Walid Azaro and Hesham Mohamed have also made the squad, with veteran striker Emad Meteb also included.
Eight-time African champions Ahly, who won the last of their titles in 2013, visit Esperance for the return leg in Rades a week later.
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