Preview: Buoyant Ahly eye Group A top spot against Etoile in Confed Cup

Omar Zaazou, Friday 24 Jul 2015

Ahly host Etoile du Sahel in the Confederation Cup quarter finals third round of fixtures at 19:00 CLT

Moemen Zakareya
Moemen Zakareya while celebrating his goal against Zamalek (Photo: Reuters)

A buoyant Ahly team will be setting their sights on Group A top spot when they host Tunisian rivals Etoile du Sahel in the Confederation Cup at Suez’s Army Stadium on Saturday.

Following their emphatic 2-0 win over arch-rivals and Egyptian league leaders Zamalek on Tuesday, Ahly will now be looking to replicate such a victory on the continental stage.

A home win during the weekend would see Ahly overtake leaders Etoile at the top of the table, after the Tunisians managed to triumph against Stade Malien and bitter foes Esperance in the two group games.

According to caretaker Ahly boss Fathi Mabrouk, his side will be eyeing no less than a win to take charge of the table in a pre-match press conference just one day ahead of the Etoile meeting.

“We’re so focused to secure a win over Etoile and bag all three points to top the group,” Mabrouk, who was widely acclaimed for his tactics during the recent win over Zamalek, said.

“We are well motivated following the win over Zamalek, but I would like to say that the nature of our meeting against Etoile will not be similar to our win over Esperance.

“Etoile are now aspiring to win the Confederation Cup title after taking charge of their group, unlike their Tunisian rivals Esperance.”

Ahly prevailed 3-0 against Esperance in their opening group game, thanks to goals from attacking midfielders Abdallah El-Saied (double) and Moemen Zakareya.

Esperance, however, looked a shadow of their old selves and now seem destined for a last-eight exit, after languishing at the bottom of the group following another narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Etoile.

Despite having never been pushovers, history does not really side with Etoile against Ahly – who met their North African rivals en route to winning three African titles before.

Even so, manager Mabrouk refuses to rely on history - stressing that they will play the game while ‘totally forgetting’ about their previous defeats of Etoile.

“We will play the match while totally forgetting about that matter. I’m not actually a fan of talking about previous achievements,” he added.

Previous meetings

Both teams meet in the Confederation Cup at the same stage for the second season running, having drawn 1-1 and 0-0 before Ahly went on to win last year’s title under the guidance of former boss Juan Carlos Garrido – whom Mabrouk replaced at the helm.

Ahly also met Etoile in the African Super Cup in 2007 in Addis Ababa, where a goalless stalemate paved the way for a shootout win for the then-Champions League holders.

But the Reds’ faithful will most gleefully remember their two-part meeting in the 2005 Champions League final, having triumphed 3-0 on aggregate to celebrate at home a title they last won in 2001.

Contrarily, the same fans will not relish recalling their meeting in the same competition’s final two years later, after being condemned to a 3-1 home defeat to watch the title go away to their rivals at Cairo Stadium. 

Defending champions Ahly are currently second in their group after thrashing Esperance and playing out a scoreless draw away at Stade Malien.

Team news

Ahly's Nigerian striker Peter Ebimobowei returns after recuperating from an injury that kept him out of action for a while, as fellow forward Ahmed Abdel-Zaher also made the squad.

Left-back Sabri Rahil and midfielder Mohamed Rezk were both included, meanwhile defender Sherif Hazem has been ruled out due to automatic suspension - alongside Hossam Ashour who is still serving his ban after seeing red in the win over Esperance.

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