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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Preview: Egypt's Ahly pin hopes on unlikely comeback against Mamelodi Sundowns

Ahmad Hassan, Friday 12 Apr 2019
Ahly
Ahly Moroccan striker Walid Azaro(L) celebrates with left-back Mahmoud Wahid after scoring the second goal in the Egyptian league game against Maqassa on April 10, 2019 at Petro Sport Stadium, Cairo Photo: Ahly official Facebook page
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Egypt's Ahly will be on mission impossible when they take on their South African rivals Mamelodi Sundowns in the second leg of the CAF Champions League quarter-final in Alexandria on Saturday.

The Cairo side lost 5-0 in the first leg in Pretoria last week, and a win against the team this weekend would be one of the most miraculous comebacks in the African history of the game.

Despite being hammered in the first leg, the Reds seem to be in high spirits. They have managed to find their way to the top of the Egyptian league thanks to a consoling 2-1 victory over Maqassa on Wednesday and a 2-1 defeat of their bitter rivals Zamalek against Masry on Thursday.

The eight-time African champions, who have been struggling to secure their ninth record-extending title since they won their last in 2013, realise that coming back against Sundowns is a back-breaking task. However, everyone at the club is determined to make up for the humiliating first-leg defeat.

"The encounter against Sundowns is a football game, at the end of the day. We will play bravely and toughly. We will enter the game as a big team and we will finish it as a big team,” Sayed Abdel-Hafiz, Ahly's football director told Egyptian media.

Ahly will welcome back striker Marwan Mohsen for the match; he was dropped from the team's squad for the Egyptian league game against Maqassa, when the club's Uruguayan tactician Martin Lasarte also benched key players Ramadan Sobhi, Naser Maher and Ali Maloul.

Midfielder Karim Nedved was also benched but was fielded after 73 minutes, to pick up a serious knee injury that will make him unavailable for the African encounter. Full-back Saad Samir will be off as well due to the knee injury he sustained in the first leg.

Commenting on the team's heavy fixture congestion and injuries, Lasarte told a presser: "I got used to it. Since I was appointed coach, this has happened a lot."

"It was vital to work on the players' mental and phsycological state and on restoring confidence. I believe, the postive result against Maqassa in the Egyptian league and topping the league table helped us resore the needed psychological balance and confidence," he added. 

Ahly will be only allowed 30,000 supporters when they take on Sundowns at Borg El-Arab stadium, as security authorities refused to allow the 86,000-seater stadium to be filled to capacity.

Mamelodi Sundowns’ manager Pitso Mosimane has insisted that his side have not booked a place in the CAF Champions League semis despite their comforting first leg win.

“I hope we keep our integrity. I hope we keep the result. I hope we protect the big work we have done. We don't have a guarantee but it's all in the mind,” Mosimane was quoted as saying by South African website Kickoff.

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

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