Preview: Egypt's Ahly 'have the spirit' to beat Raja in Champions League

Ahram Online , Friday 15 Apr 2022

Despite their recent stuttering form and some injuries, Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane believes his side "have the spirit" to beat Morocco's Raja Casablanca in the first leg of the African Champions League quarters in Cairo on Saturday.

Ahly v Raja
Ahly beat Raja on penalties in the African Super Cup in December last year (AFP)

The reigning champions, who are seeking to become the first team to win a hat-trick of successive Champions League crowns, had been uncharacteristically patchy in the group stage, collecting just 10 points from six games to advance as runners-up.

They also suffered their first defeat in the Egyptian Premier League this season when they fell to a surprise 1-0 loss to Masry last weekend.

Mosimane, who led Ahly to back-to-back Champions League titles, partly blamed fixture congestion for the stuttering form but he is confident they can produce a solid and strong display against Raja, who topped their group with five wins and a solitary loss.

"We are now entering the difficult phase of the tournament. The easy part [group stage and preliminary rounds] is now something of the past," the South African coach told the pre-match news conference.

"We will play against a tough team like Raja, who were able to be at the top of their group. Also, playing against Moroccan teams isn't easy.

"We are not in our best shape now in terms of injuries but we have the spirit to win."

Their anticipated meeting comes four months after they clashed in an exciting African Super Cup in Qatar, which Ahly won on penalties after scoring a last-gasp equaliser.

Ahly will enjoy the backing of their fans, with authorities agreeing to allow more than 20,000 spectators to attend the game at Al-Salam Stadium.

The record seven-time African champions are also expected to play before a vibrant crowd when the second leg takes place in Casablanca next weekend.

"As for playing in the second leg in Morocco, we have to concentrate only on the pitch and avoid being distracted with things from outside the pitch," Mosimane added.

"If you do your job on the pitch, you have more chances to win no matter how many Raja fans attend the game."

Ahly will miss long-term absentees Akram Tawfik and Badr Benoun in addition to injured central defender Rami Rabia.

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

Short link: