Ahly defeated Ivory Coast's Sewe Sport 1-0 in Cairo in the African Confederation Cup group stage (Photo: Ahram)
Egypt's Ahly will be eyeing the only title missing in their trophy-laden cabinet when they face Ivory Coast's Sewe Sport in a two-legged African Confederation Cup final, having been denied the chance to add to their record tally of eight Champions League triumphs.
The Red Devils suffered a huge disappointment when they were knocked out of the Champions League preliminaries at the hands of the unfancied Ahly Benghazi, missing out on the chance of defending the title they won in 2012 and 2013.
Normally, winning the Confederation Cup, Africa's secondary club competition, will be no more than a consolation for a club of Ahly's caliber but this is not the case this year.
The Confederation Cup has eluded Egyptian clubs in its new and old formats, with Ismaily going the closest when they reached the final in 2000 before losing to Algeria's JS Kabylie, giving Ahly an extra incentive to lift the trophy.
They visit Sewe Sport for Saturday's first-leg in Abidjan before hosting them in Cairo on 6 December.
"We are aware that winning the Confederation Cup is a huge illusion for millions of Egyptians. We will work hard for it," Spanish coach Juan Garrido, who is eyeing his second title in charge of the team after helping them win the Egyptian Super Cup, told the pre-match news conference.
"We want to be part of the success story of Ahly. We can now get a place in this history by winning a title that would make the country very happy."
Ahly, who overcame Cameroon's Coton Sport in the semi-final, had the upper hand in two group-stage meetings with Sewe Sport, holding them to a 1-1 away draw before claiming a 1-0 home win.
"It is important that players know they must work hard and show concentration to win. We will have to fight hard because Sewe is a very tough opponent with players of great quality," Garrido added.
"We respect Sewe Sport and we know what they can do. Good defensive work will be key to control the game. We must keep possession and score the opportunities we will have. It is a stadium where you can play good football."
Garrido only has 17 players available for the two games, with Ahly's African squad severely affected by the retirement of some key players and the departure and injury of others.
However, he is boosted by the return of Abdallah El-Said following several months on the sidelines with a foot injury, with the playmaker capable of providing much-needed creativity. Versatile defender Sherif Abdel-Fadil has also recovered from injury.
Key trio Mahmoud 'Trezeguet' Hassan, Mohamed Naguib and Mohamed Farouk will be careful not to pick up any booking, which would rule them out of the decider next month.
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