Preview: Ahly and Wydad clash in repeat of Champions League final

Karim Farouk , Sunday 4 Jun 2023

There will be a sense of deja vu when Ahly take on defending Champions Wydad of Morocco in the Champions League final on Sunday in a remake of last year’s final showdown of Africa’s most prestigious club competition.



The Egyptian giants lost 12 months ago against Wydad 2-0 in Morocco to deprive them from securing an unprecedented treble following their triumphs in 2020 and 2021.

Returning to the final for the fourth consecutive time, the Egyptian giants are determined to secure their record-extending 11th title and seek revenge against their rivals. Ahly believes they were treated unfairly last year, as the final was hosted by Wydad, despite demands for a neutral venue.

The only significant change from last year's encounter is the return to a two-legged final format, which had been abandoned in 2019, as decided by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

On Sunday, Marcel Koller's men will have the advantage of a packed Cairo International Stadium, with over 50,000 supporters in attendance, providing an electric atmosphere.

"Fans will play a big role in helping us achieve our target. The past is behind us, and we are solely focused on tomorrow's game and winning the 11th title," midfielder Mohamed "Afsha" Magdi told the club's website.

Koller has rotated his team in recent matches to manage the congested league schedule and prevent player exhaustion before the final.

Unfortunately, first-choice goalkeeper and captain Mohamed El-Shennawy will not be available for this crucial match due to a lingering muscle injury. Ali Lotfi, who has recovered from a recent muscle strain, is expected to step in as his replacement after receiving medical clearance in the past few days.

Meanwhile, Wydad coach Sven Vandenbroeck has downplayed his team's chances, despite their impressive victory over the tournament's favorites, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, in the semifinals.

"Although they may have played better football, we used our experience to defeat them and advance to the final. Claiming that a final against Ahly is easy is crazy. Ahly is a prominent team in Africa, having reached all but one final in the last five years and boasting the most titles. However, Wydad has also been a regular contender in recent years, and we possess the experience to navigate such situations," the Belgian tactician was quoted sa saying by local media.

Wydad, three-time African champions, are poised to secure their fourth title in their sixth appearance in the tournament's final.

In their previous eleven meetings, Ahly emerged victorious four times, while Wydad claimed victory three times. However, the Moroccans prevailed when it mattered most, securing two titles in 2017 and 2022 against the Red Devils.

Ahly hopes that the third time will be the charm in 2023.

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