Preview: Ahly out to allay Champions League worries after stuttering start

Ahram Online , Friday 4 Mar 2022

Reigning champions Ahly will be looking to quickly recover from a poor start to their African Champions League group-stage campaign when they host Sudan's Al-Merreikh in a rescheduled game in Cairo on Saturday.

Ahly
Ahly lost 1-0 to Mamelodi Sundowns in their previous Group A clash of the African Champions League (Ahram)

The Red Devils, who are looking to become the first team to win a hat-trick of straight Champions League titles, were held to a 0-0 draw away to Sudanese giants Al-Hilal in their opening Group A game before slumping to a shock 1-0 home loss to South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns.

With Sundowns on top on seven points from three games, Al-Merreikh seem to be Ahly's main challengers for the group's second ticket to the knockout phase after they collected four points from their opening two matches.

Ahly's stuttering Champions League start contrasts sharply with their domestic run as they won eight out of their opening nine Egyptian Premier League matches, drawing only once.

South African coach Pitso Mosimane said the main difference is that Ahly are struggling to make the most of their chances in the Champions League. Domestically, they scored eight goals in their previous two league matches, including a 4-1 win over Pharco on Tuesday.

In the loss against Sundowns, Ahly were guilty of spurning some easy chances, especially in a frantic ending. They were punished when Thapelo Morena fired home with five minutes remaining.

"The difference between the game we played in Alexandria (against Pharco) and the game against Sundown is that we played in Sundowns' half and we should have scored against Sundowns, but if you do not score, it is a different story," Mosimane told a news conference.

"When you score the goals, it is a different story. When you miss chances, it is a problem.

"(Merreikh) is an important game for us after a defeat against Sundowns. We are playing at home and we need to win. We are ready for the match. We play here and we have no excuse. We will do what we should do to collect the three points."

Ahly will miss three of their central defenders, with Ayman Ashraf, Yasser Ibrahim and Badr Benoun still out due to injuries.

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