Ahly has no choice but to win against Algerian team Mouloudia Alger in the Champions League Group B encounter on Friday night, if they are to revive their hopes of qualifying for the competition’s semi-finals.
The Red Devils, record winners of Africa’s premier club competition with six titles under their belt, made a poor start in their group stage campaign, collecting only one point from two games.
They were held to a 3-3 home draw by Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca before slumping to a 2-1 defeat against Tunisian team Esperance in a tough group consisting entirely of North African teams, known to engage in highly charged clashes.
Anything but a victory over the equally challenging Mouloudia, who have also bagged no more than one point from two matches after suffering a humiliating 4-0 defeat by Wydad, will jeopardise Ahly’s hopes of making a second consecutive appearance at the Champions League semis.
“The results of the two previous matches have put us in a critical situation. We cannot afford to lose any more points, especially not at home,” Ahly striker Emad Meteb said in an interview with Cafonline.com. “Only a win will do. We are going into this match for all three points since that is the way we can revive our hope of qualifying for the semi-finals.”
In a summer spending spree Ahly has contracted five new players, one of whom – the Brazilian striker Fabio Junior – will have the chance to make his debut against Mouloudia. Junior, who joined the Cairo giants from Portuguese side Naval on a three-year deal, has been included in the team’s 18-man squad for the must-win match. The 28-year-old will compete with Meteb, Mauritania’s Dominique Da Silva, who recovered from injury in time for the game, and Mohamed Nagy “Gedo”, for a place in the starting line up.
Ahly’s already shaky defence have to do without Ahmed El-Sayed, who was lately heavily criticised for several mistakes he committed against Wydad and Esperance due to injury. But the Egyptian champions will welcome back their enthusiastic fans, who were not allowed to attend the Wydad game due to a sanction imposed by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
“Ahly fans don’t need anyone to tell them to come and support us, they need no invitation,” added Meteb, an Ahly-fan favourite who prematurely terminated his deal with Belgian side Standard Liege without playing a single game to return to the club of his boyhood last January. “I’m sure they will show up and fill the stands and that they will support the team all the way. Ahly fans have always been our greatest source of motivation and I’m positive they are going to continue in that spirit.”