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Preview: Egypt's Ahly in tough mission against Algeria's ES Setif amid tensions over spectator ban

Mahmoud Elassal , Tuesday 2 Oct 2018
Ahly
Ahly's Malian forward Salif Coulibaly (R) leaps to receive the ball during the CAF Champions League group A match between Tunisia's ES Tunis and Egypt's Al-Ahly SC at Rades Olympic Stadium in on August 17, 2018 (AFP)
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Egypt's Ahly will face a tough mission when they take on Algeria's ES Setif in the first leg of the CAF Champions League semifinals at Cairo's El-Salam Stadium on Tuesday. The return match will be played in Algeria on 23 October.

Ahly, who are eyeing their first Champion’s League trophy since 2013, booked their place in the continental tournament's semis after thrashing Guinea outfit Horoya AC 4-0 on aggregate in the quarterfinals two weeks ago.

Under the helm of French coach Patrice Carteron, Ahly are aware that they need to be more clinical upfront if they are to reach the African Champions League finals for the second year respectively.

"We are prepared for a strong confrontation against an opponent who managed to reach the semis after defeating the current title holders Wydad of Morocco," Carteron told Ahly's official website.

"Our campaign has been a successful one up to this point, but we must focus on each match individually, and our full concentration now is on the Champion’s League after we’ve completed our match in the Arab Cup," the Ahly coach explained.

"We’ve studied the Algerian team well. It is a good team with talented players and also an efficient coach, but we have big ambitions to win with a good score in Cairo to make our mission easier in the return match," Carteron said.

The Red Devils will have to do without several key players due to injury, including central defender Saad Samir and regular central midfielder Amr El-Sulaya.

However, the team has welcomed back promising playmaker Nasser Maher, who recently fell out of favour with Ahly's coach Carteron.

Ahly won the last of their record eight Champions League titles in 2013. They qualified for last year's final only to lose to Morocco's Wydad Casablanca 2-1 on aggregate.

Algerian side ES Setif, who have two CAF Champions League trophies on their belts from 2014 and 1988, booked their place in the current edition of the tournament's semis after beating the title's holders Wydad of Morocco.

Fan tensions

Despite Ahly being hit with a two-match spectator ban and fined by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for their fans chanting against Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh, the Cairo giants will be supported by their passionate fans.

The CAF have ordered Ahly's senior team to play the next two matches behind closed doors, without spectators. However, this provision is suspended for the remainder of the 2018 season on condition that Ahly does not commit a similar offence during this period.

Ahly president Mahmoud El-Khatib and coach Carteron asked club fans not to insult any person or entities and instead to concentrate only on supporting their team.

"I ask Ahly fans to only support the team during the game to achieve our target," Carteron was quoted as saying on Al-Ahram Arabic newspaper.

Ahly currently stands in second place in the Egyptian league with 15 points from seven matches, two points behind leaders Zamalek, who have played one match more.

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

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