Preview: Resurgent Ahly eager to erase bitter memories in Pretoria

Ahram Online , Friday 6 Mar 2020

Ahly's midfielder Magdi Afsha (L) celebrates with forward Marwan Mohsen (C) after their team scored a goal during the first leg of the CAF Champions League Quarter-final football match against Mamelodi Sundowns in the capital Cairo on February 29, 2020 (AFP)

Ahly, Egypt and Africa's most successful outfit, know they can ill-afford any other embarrassments in Pretoria as they meet South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns in a vital African Champions League clash on Saturday.

Last season, they bowed out at the last eight stage after suffering a stunning 5-1 aggregate defeat by Sundowns, with the first leg ending 5-0 away from home.

This time around, Ahly look a much improved side.

Having hosted the first leg of the quarterfinal in Cairo, Ahly secured a convincing 2-0 victory over Sundowns last weekend, wasting a chance to secure an even bigger win after producing a vivid attacking display in the second half.

Their advantage remains comfortable though and they will be favourites to advance to the semifinal as they chase their first crown since winning the last of their record eight titles in 2013.

But pragmatic coach Rene Weiler is not getting too carried away with the first-leg result.

"We achieved the victory in Cairo but it doesn't mean we have qualified for the next round," the Swiss boss, under whom Ahly had made an impressive start to their domestic league campaign, told a press conference on Friday.

"The game will be very difficult and we have to work hard to secure our qualification for the semi-finals.

"Sundowns are one of the strongest teams in Africa as they haven’t lost a game at home in the Champions League this season."

Weiler is expected to stick to the same line-up of the first leg, although it remains to be seen whether he will stay loyal to his adventurous approaches and attacking-minded tactics.

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane said his can only grab another stunning victory if Ahly opt against defending in numbers.

"You wish you get another 5-0, but you have to be realistic because results like that come once in a while and you can’t have that all the time," Mosimane was quoted as saying by South African media.

"And maybe we might never have a result like that in our lifetime. Is it possible? Yes. It is easy? No. We will see how the approach is, whether it is to sit back and not give us space – then the 5-0 will remain a wish. But if they are open then maybe we can do it."

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