Ahly won the African Champions League last season with a 2-1 victory over Zamalek (Reuters)
Ahly are expected to seal smooth progress to the African Champions League group stage as they kick off the defence of their crown with an away game at Niger's Sonidep in the first leg of the competition's round of 32 on Wednesday.
Sonidep are making their third appearance at the lucrative Champions League, having failed to qualify for the last 16 on their previous two participations.
Ahly will be looking to build on a remarkable campaign that saw them clinch all major titles last season -- the Egyptian Premier League, Egypt Cup and Champions League.
The fact that their Champions League triumph came at the expense of bitter Cairo rivals Zamalek in dramatic fashion, following a late scorcher from Magdi Afsha, made it all the more impressive.
But the record nine-time winners are still hungry for more triumphs as they open their new campaign.
"The opening game is the start of our new challenge for us in our quest to win the trophy again," said Ahly's football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz.
The Red Devils will miss three players after they contracted COVID-19, including key duo Afsha and holding midfielder Amr El-Sulaya.
South African coach Pitso Mosimane, the mastermind of Ahly's victories over Morocco's Wydad and Zamalek in the semi-final and final of last season's edition, did not also make the trip to Niger for the same reason.
"The technical staff trusts all of our players to make up for the absences," Abdel-Hafiz added.
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