Preview: Egypt's Ahly out to reach CL quarters and send warning to rivals

Ahram Online , Friday 2 Apr 2021

An away win for Ahly over Sudan's Al-Merreikh will send them to the African Champions League quarters with one match to spare in Group A

Ahly 3-0 Merreikh
Ahly crushed Sudan's Al-Merreikh 3-0 in their opening Group A game in February (file photo: Ahram)

Holders Ahly are keen on sealing passage to the African Champions League quarters with one match to spare in their group as they meet Sudan's Al-Merreikh away from home on Saturday.

The Red Devils made up for a stuttering start to their Group A campaign, which saw them lose to Tanzania's Simba and draw at home to DR Congo's Vita Club after an opening win over Merreikh, to move within touching distance of a place in the last eight.

Their impressive 3-0 victory away to Vita Club last month allayed fears over Ahly's qualification prospects and they are now looking to build on that with a win over Merreikh, which would send them through before they host Simba in their final group-stage match next week.

Ahly are second in Group A with seven points, three behind leaders Simba and four clear of third-placed Vita Club. Merreikh lie at the bottom with a solitary point.

"Winning against Merreikh at their own stadium will give us the chance to achieve three targets; securing qualification, continuing our mission to top the group and sending a message to all competitors that Ahly are only out for wins either home or away," the team's coach Pitso Mosimane said.

"It's not necessary to start the group stage perfectly. What really matters is how we end our campaign.

"The Champions League group stage is just like a marathon, in which our only concern would be finishing well. That is our target for the next two games."

Ahly, who are favourites to bag all three points, kicked off their Group A campaign with a convincing 3-0 victory over Merreikh in Cairo, wasting several goal-scoring chances which if converted would have given them a more comprehensive win.

They will miss midfield linchpin Hamdi Fathi, who was injured while on international duty, and influential left-back Ali Maaloul, who has been out of action since sustaining a hamstring injury in Ahly's 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the Club World Cup semis in February.

"Injuries are part of football … big teams like Ahly have replacements in all positions," Mosimane told the pre-match news conference.

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