Sundowns have a chance to slay weaker Egyptian giants
Al Ahly have never won in SA, and are showing signs of frailty - factors that Downs must capitalise on
Facing Egyptian giants Al Ahly is always a daunting prospect given the rich history and conveyor-belt of talent that the Cairo club have managed to produce down the years. But, despite their appearance in the final for the past two years, both losing efforts, Ahly have shown signs of frailty of late that Mamelodi Sundowns will be eager to capitalise on when they clash in the quarterfinals of Africa’s elite competition next month.
Ahly were typically strong at home in the pool stages of this year’s competition, winning all three games with a goals aggregate of 10-0, but Sundowns will understand the particular pressures of playing in Egypt and should not be overawed. Ahly managed just a single point from nine on the road though, including defeats to Tanzanian side Simba and AS Vita Club from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and have not won any of their past seven away Champions League games, losing five of those and scoring just two goals in the process.
Added to that, Ahly have never won a game in SA after nine attempts – with six draws and three defeats against a variety of opponents, including Sundowns, Orlando Pirates, Platinum Stars, Ajax Cape Town and BidVest Wits. It is an area that Sundowns must exploit when they host the first leg on the weekend of April 5-6, before making the trip to Egypt a week later.
Ahly coach Martin Lasarte admits that his squad has lost a lot of continental experience in recent times.
“There are a number of players who lack the African competitions experience, like Mohamed Hany, Karim Nedved, Nasser Maher, and Ramadan Sobhi, but their experience will increase with the time,” he said.
“The players and staff were under a lot of pressure recently because of the team’s position in the group, but we have dealt with the situation well.”
Ahly also received another boost recently when authorities allowed them to have 15,000 fans in the stadium for home games, up from 5,000 just a few years ago. That will create a greater atmosphere and spur for the team.