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Preview: Buoyant Ahly eye home win over Wydad in CL final

Omar Zaazou , Friday 27 Oct 2017
Ahly's Ahmed Fathi (C-L) marks Wydad's Ismail Haddad (R) during their CAF Champions League group A stage football match between Egypt's Ahly and Morocco's Wydad Casablanca at the Borg el-Arab Stadium in Alexandria on July 16, 2016 (AFP)
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Views: 1953

A buoyant Ahly side will be looking for a first-leg advantage this time around as they host Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca in Alexandria on Saturday with an eye on a record-extending ninth African Champions League title.

The Red Devils could not take a first-leg advantage in the quarter and semi finals but stormed back on both occasions to eliminate Tunisia's popular clubs Esperance and Etoile du Sahel respectively. 

Following an emphatic 6-2 victory in the semi-final return-leg over Etoile, who emerged 2-1 winners in the first leg in Sousse, Ahly will be going into the final eyeing a record ninth title in high spirits.

Talking about Ahly's thumping victory over Etoile, manager Hossam El-Badry was clear to say that his side were lucky in the game - which he entered focusing primarily upon not conceding even if his team were to score just a single goal.

"To be frank, my target was to score knowing that only 1-0 would qualify me for the final," El-Badry, who led Ahly to their 2012 Champions League title, told BeIN Sports right after the game. 

"We were lucky today; we had the desire to win which was reflected on the performance and the result."

However, Wydad – who overcame Algeria’s USM Algiers with an aggregate 3-1 win in the semis – say they are unfazed by Ahly’s comprehensive victory over Etoile, with defender Abdellatif Noussir stating that they are preparing  ‘normally’for the crunch tie.

“We are normally preparing for the game like any other game,” Noussir, 24, said.

“We know the game would be difficult as everyone knows Ahly’s strength. We’ll be looking to come up with minimum losses ahead of the return leg.”

Wydad playmaker Mohammad Ounnajem reiterated his teammate’s statements, while stressing that they will be focusing upon avoiding a repeat of their 4-0 semi-final first-leg defeat by Ahly arch-rivals Zamalek at the same stage last season.  

"We will focus on avoiding a repeat of what happened last year against Zamalek. We will do our best to get a positive result in Alexandria and not leak any goals," Ounnajem told a Moroccan television channel.

"In the second leg, we will have the advantage of playing before our hugely supportive fans."

Ahly and Wydad met twice in the group stage, with each winning their home clash by the same 2-0 scoreline.

"It will not be easy against Ahly; our group stage meetings were very tough," Ounnajem added.       

Ahly will continue to miss the services of holding midfielder Hossam Ashour, who has been ruled out alongside playmaker Saleh Gomaa due to injury.

Egypt right-back Ahmed Fathi, meanwhile, returns from suspension having missed the second leg against Wydad.

Even so, the Reds barely felt the absence of the influential duo, with natural center-back Rami Rabia producing a convincing performance in midfield, as Mohamed Hani deputized well for Fathi at the right-back.

It remains to be seen how manager El-Badry will play in midfield, with Fathi providing another reliable option in the middle of the park.

Ahly will continue to enjoy their home fans cheering on them from the stands, with 50,000 supporters expected to egg on their beloved side.

The return leg takes place in Casablanca at Mohamed V Stadium a week later on 4 November. 

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