After the heartbreak of losing the 2016 final 2-1 on aggregate to eventual winners Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco, the Egyptian giants return to the continental front with more confidence, as they continue chasing the elusive ninth title, to extend their dominance on the honours list of the premier continental club championship.
This year, the Cairo giants enter the competition with great hope, buoyed by their outstanding season so far. After a domestic treble (Egyptian Premier League, Egypt Cup and Egyptian Super Cup) last season, Ahly appear in a good stead to add another trophy to their trophy-laden cabinet. With seven games to spare, the Red Devils need just four points to grab their 40th domestic league title, an unprecedented feat within touching distance of realisation.
Having won all their last 14 games, Ahly enters the continental scene brimming with confidence as they play host to Mounana. However, coach Hossam El Badry has warned his troops not to be taken by their outstanding form lately.
“Last year, we started against South Africa’s Bidvest Wits. We were confident of having a good result, but we won narrowly and had some hard times in the return leg. We don't want to see a repeat of that start,” El Badry told CAFOnline.com as his side prepared to face Mounana.
The 57-year old experienced trainer has already tasted continental glory with the Red Devils, a feat achieved in 2012. After spells with Sudanese giants El Merreikh, Egyptian side ENPPI and the Egyptian Olympic team, he returned to the helm of the Red Devils nearly two years ago, and is eager to lead Cairo-based giants to continental glory yet again.
“We have studied our opponents (Mounana) well," added El Badry.
“My Assistant, Sayed Moawad, went to see them live in the preliminary round, and I also have some clips of their recent matches. They are a good side and we respect them. Our target is to have a convincing win to make the return leg a mere formality”.
After missing recent domestic games through a calf injury, Ahly welcome back their talisman, midfielder Abdallah El Said. Having scored 10 goals and assisted 11 this season, El Said is an important part of ElBadry's game approach.
“I’m El Said will be ready to play,” concluded El Badry, who will be also banking on the goalscoring prowess of forward, Moroccan Walid Azaro, and Nigeria-born Junior Ajayi.
The return leg is scheduled on 17 March 2018 in Libreville, with aggregate winner moving to the group stage.
Tuesday, 6 March 2018
Al Ahly (Egypt) vs Mounana (Gabon)
Horoya (Guinea) vs Generation Foot (Senegal)
Young Africans (Tanzania) vs Township Rollers (Botswana)
Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) vs Plateau United (Nigeria)
Wednesday, 7 March 2018
Saint George (Ethiopia) vs KCCA (Uganda)
Zanaco (Zambia) vs Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland)
Wydad Athletic Club (Morocco) vs Williamsville AC (Cote d’Ivoire)
Aduana (Ghana) vs ES Setif (Algeria)
MFM (Nigeria) vs MC Alger (Algeria)
Gor Mahia (Kenya) vs Esperance (Tunisia)
AS Togo (Togo) vs El Hilal (Sudan)
Zesco (Zambia) vs ASEC Mimosas (Cote d’Ivoire)
TP Mazembe (DR Congo) vs UD Songo (Mozambique)
Difaa Hassan (Morocco) vs AS Vita (DR Congo)
Primeiro de Agosto (Angola) vs Bidvest (South Africa)
Rayon Sports (Rwanda) vs Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)