Winning the African Super Cup has been mainly a formality for Ahly but the Cairo giants will wear a rare underdog tag when they seek to secure a record-extending title away to Algeria’s ES Setif on Saturday.
It will be the first competitive game for any Egyptian outfit since the Cairo football tragedy that left 20 Zamalek fans dead before a Premier League game against ENPPI earlier this month.
The incident, in which the supporters died of stampede after being tear-gassed by security forces as they tried to enter the army-owned Air Defence Stadium, prompted a stoppage of domestic football amid doubts over whether the competition will be resumed.
“I am just thinking about the Super Cup. We must overcome the tragedy and come back to the normal life with more strength,” said Ahly’s Spanish coach Juan Garrido, who is eyeing his third trophy at the helm after leading the club to the Egyptian Super Cup and African Confederation Cup titles.
It’s the first time in almost two decades that Ahly play the game as the winners of a secondary competition rather than the prestigious Champions League, which they had won a record eight times.
The Red Devils became the first Egyptian side to win the Confederation Cup last December when they beat Ivory Coast’s Sewe Sport over two legs following a last-gasp winner from striker Emad Meteb.
Ahly won two successive Champions League accolades in 2012 and 2013 but suffered an early exit at last year’s edition, with Setif going on to win the competition at the expense of Congo’s Vita Club.
“The players are determined to bring the trophy back to Cairo. We are confident that our experience can be a crucial factor,” said Garrido’s assistant Ali Maher.
Ahly’s proud record includes six African Super Cup triumphs and a solitary loss in seven attempts, which came against arch-rivals Zamalek in 1994 in Johannesburg.
The last time Ahly played the Super Cup away from home was in 2007 when they beat Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel in Addis Ababa on penalties following a 0-0 draw as African governing body CAF celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Ahly, who play the majority of home games behind closed doors due to lingering security concerns in Egypt, will have to bear a passionate atmosphere at the Mustapha Tchaker Stadium in Blida if they are to snatch a victory on the road.
“I believe that we have an advantage over Ahly. They are a big team but we should not overestimate their power,” Setif chairman Hassan Hammar told Algerian radio.
Ahly have no major injury worries ahead of the game, with Nigerian striker Peter Ebimobowei, who marked his full debut with his maiden goal in a 3-1 league win over Ittihad El-Shorta earlier this month, shaking off an injury in time to make the team’s squad.
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