“You don’t get to play Real Madrid every day. So my advice for Ahly players is to enjoy this historical game. They are under no pressure now and have nothing to lose but everything to gain,” renowned sports critic Hassan Al-Mistikawi told a TV program.
It is a game with plenty of history between two eternel clubs each in his own world.
Real Madrid are not just the European champions but the 'Club of the Century' in Europe who have 14 Champions League titles under their belt among a hundred other trophies.
On the opposite side, Ahly have been reigning in Egypt and Africa for over a century with more than a hundred titles in all competitions, including 10 Africa Champions League titles.
“They're [Ahly] a team full of history, one of the most important in world football. We have a lot of respect for them, like everyone else, especially a club with such a strong history in African football. A club with such a history has obviously got fans behind the team. It is going to be an entertaining game,” Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti told the pre-game press conference on Tuesday.
Following Saturday’s win against Seattle Sounders 1-0, the Red Devils camp has been in a feverish mood.
Egyptian media have poured hours on coverage for the game that will be a milestone in Ahly’s long list of accomplishments.
“Of course, we are really happy, Firstly, we are happy to have qualified. We really wanted it. Now, we are going to play against the European champions. I have to say it is a dream come true,” Ahly's Malian midfielder Aliou Dieng told FIFA after the game.
Coming to football, needless to say Real Madrid are the overwhelming favourite not just for this game but also to win an extending-record fifth Club World Cup title.
However, Ahly players believe in their chances - even if these are slim.
“Nothing is impossible in football, we have to give our best on the pitch to realise our dream of reaching the final and winning the title. Tomorrow it will be 11 against 11 and only the performance and effort deployed by those men count,” defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneim was quoted as saying on Ahly’s website.
The Egyptians' hopes may be boosted by the injuries that hit their rivals who came to Rabat without seven of their key players, including keeper Thibaut Courtois and the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema.
Still, Ahly coach Marcel Koller believes these absences won’t impact Real Madrid and that the Merengues have a plethora of players to fill in for them.
The Swiss tactician, however, draws inspiration from Morocco's unexpected win over Spain in the quarters in the last World Cup a few weeks ago.
“If they can do it I hope we can,” he told the club’s website.
The Reds fans are counting on their happy fortunes in a similar Egyptian-Spanish clash more than 20 years ago when Ahly beat Real Madrid’s Galacticos 1-0 in a friendly in Cairo in 2001.
A repeat Egyptian victory over the Spaniards tomorrow in the Club World Cup will send the match into football’s history books.
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