Preview: Ahly out to overturn first-leg trailing against Orlando Pirates

Ahram Online , Saturday 3 Oct 2015

Ahly will be looking to make it to the Confederation Cup final for the second season running when they host Orlando Pirates at Suez Stadium on Sunday

Oupa Manyisa (right) fight for the ball with Ahly midfielder Hossam Ashour in the 2013 Champions League final (Photo: Reuters)

Defending champions Ahly will be seeking to put an end to their dismal performances of late by overturning a 1-0 first-leg trailing to Orlando Pirates, who the Cairo giants host in the CAF Confederation Cup semi-final return-leg on Sunday.

Having slumped to a Thamsanqa Gabusa strike at Johannesburg last week, Ahly will be keen to save their season after losing the domestic league and cup titles to arch-rivals Zamalek.

Their recent displays weren't quite encouraging though, but Ahly's faithful will be hoping manager Fathi Mabrouk, who has been given a vote of confidence by the board, will find the right recipe to take his side to the final.

In a clear intention to employ an attacking strategy against the South Africans, Mabrouk has called up an attack-minded squad – which features five centre forwards and only two defensive midfielders.

Emad Meteb, Malick Evouna, John Antwi, Amr Gamal and Ahmed Abdel-Zaher have all made the cut – with the latter inclusion coming in a surprising fashion.

Abdel-Zaher had been initially ruled out due to injury, but Mabrouk had a change of heart in the final moments to include his forsaken striker.

Hossam Ashour has been the only natural holding midfielder, as he is set to partner attack-minded Abdallah El-Saied at the centre of the park in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

The other defensive midfielder is Ahmed Fathi, but it remains to be seen how he is going to be used against Orlando, with right-backs Bassem Ali and Mohamed Hani included in the squad.

"Zamalek stronger than Ahly"

Despite Ahly's unconvincing displays, Mabrouk still believes his players have what it takes to overturn their one-goal deficit against the Buccaneers.

"The players' morale is high, they are well determined to win the game," Mabrouk told reporters.

"Ahly are champions, losing a game doesn't mean they aren't able to overturn their trailing from the first leg. They all have the experience needed in such situations.

"I just hoped to have the fans in the stands to cheer the team. The fans' presence is an important factor in any team's success."   

On the other hand, Orlando Pirates coach Eric Tinkler believes Ahly are not quite the team to fear, saying that the Reds' arch-rivals Zamalek are a stronger side.

"We have played against them (Ahly) before in the Champions League and they are not a really tough team," Tinkler said.

"Zamalek are stronger than Ahly, but that doesn't mean that we will take Sunday's game for granted.

"We won't just sit back and relax, instead we will attack and breach their lines. It won't be a walk in the park but we can win the game." 

Ahly will continue to play behind closed doors against Orlando, with only a limited number of 2000 fans permitted in after security officials refused to lift the ongoing ban.

The Red Devils enjoyed their fans' presence in the final of the CAF Champions League in 2013, when they defeated Orlando Pirates 2-0 in Cairo following a 1-1 first-leg draw to win the title.

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