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Thursday, 22 August 2019

Preview: Egypt’s Ahly seek away win against Mamelodi Sundowns in Champions League quarter finals

Ahmad Hassan, Saturday 6 Apr 2019
Ahly
Ahly beat JS Saoura 3-0 in Alexandria in the final game of the group stage on March 16, 2019 Photo: Ahram
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Ahly will be looking to clinch an away victory against Mamelodi Sundowns when they face off in the first leg of the CAF Champions League quarter finals in Pretoria on Saturday.

“Everyone is ready for the game and for securing a positive result that would help us move forward and go as far as we can in our African campaign,” coach Martin Lasarte told a presser ahead of the encounter.

Although the tie is expected to feature under heavy rain, the Cairo giants are not worried, thanks to the high quality of the pitches in the only African country which hosted a FIFA World Cup back in 2010.

“The heavy rain since the early morning does not pose any problem to us,” Lasarte said.

However, Lasarte did not hide how wary he and his side are because of the strength of the teams who reached this stage of the competition.

“Things get tougher and harder in the Champions League as we advance from one stage to the next. We are now in the quarter finals, there are eight teams in this stage and all of them have the same desire and ambition to reach the semis and win the title,” the 58-year-old manager added.

The Cairo giants turn to the Champions League after two difficult local outings in the Egyptian league, a goalless draw against bitter-rivals Zamalek on Saturday and a stoppage-time 2-0 victory over Ittihad of Alexandria on Tuesday.

“Our fixtures are heavily congested. We faced Zamalek and then Ittihad in the course of three days before flying to South Africa to face Sundowns. However, we came here to win,” Lasarte concluded.

In order to overcome fatigue, Lasarte opted to a rotation strategy in the game against Ittihad when he rested key players Ramadan Sobhi, Junior Ajayi and Marwan Mohsen as well as right-back Mohamed Hany and centre-back Saad Samir.

Midfielder Hamdy Fathy and defender Ayman Ashraf were announced fit for the African trip after shaking off their injuries.

The eight-time Africa champions reached the quarter finals after topping Group D on 10 points.

Sundowns, who were crowned African champions in 2016 and who have clinched a record of eight local titles since the introduction of the South African Premier Division in 1996, qualified after coming second in Group A also on 10 points.

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

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