FIVE REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL...
1 THEY’VE NOT CONCEDED TO AHLY
In their two meetings in this year’s competition, the Buccaneers have kept two clean sheets and this should be good enough reason for Roger de Sa and his team to be hopeful. That they themselves have put four past the Red Devils should have the hosts trot on to the Orlando Stadium pitch with a spring in their step. But they know only too well that they have to score.
2 MANY SOURCES OF GOALS
Scoring goals will not be a problem for the Buccaneers. Unlike many teams heavily reliant on their strikers, Orlando Pirates have numerous sources of goals. The 24 they scored en route to this stage of the competition were scored by an amazing 14 players. That Takesure Chinyama, who is the tournament’s leading scorer, is no longer at the club has not robbed them of finishing power, with defender Rooi Mahamutsa among those who have found the back of the net.
3 THEY’VE NOT LOST AT HOME
Since they began their Champions League campaign, the Buccaneers are yet to be beaten at home and this has been part of the reason they are in final. Keeping four former African champions in TP Mazembe, Ahly, Zamalek and Esperance at bay was no mean feat and the desire to maintain this incredible record should help drive Pirates to defend their goal like men possessed.
4 THEY’VE FOUND A WAY TO BEAT NORTH AFRICAN SIDES
Traditionally, South African teams just don’t know how to cope with sides from up north. But Pirates have seemingly found the recipe to break down the solidly organised walls of the Arab-African teams having only lost just once in this campaign – away to Zamalek.
5 THE SPIRIT OF 1995 IS ALIVE
In the build-up to this match, a number of the legends of that team which won the cup in 1995 have visited the club to offer their encouragement. That can only serve to motivate Pirates and, as Andile Jali said, this current lot will be keen to close that chapter and open their own. Somehow, the Buccaneers have managed to not win their last five matches and still progressed to the final. Such progression can only be proof of Daine Klate’s assertion that “it is written in the stars” that the class of 2013 will add a second star.
FIVE REASONS TO BE FEARFUL
1 MOHAMED ABOUTRIKA WANTS TO GO OUT ON A HIGH
Arguably one of the greatest players to be produced on this continent, Mohamed Aboutrika is still reeling at the prospect of missing out on the World Cup. With Egypt having been hammered 6-0 by Ghana in the first leg of the play-off for the showpiece in Brazil next year, Aboutrika and Co are unlikely to take the Pharaohs to the World Cup. How better to ease that pain than to retain the Champions League? And with Aboutrika having said he will retire from the game after this (or the Club World Cup), the talented midfielder will be keen to do so on a high.
2 MOTEAB IS BACK
After missing all the group matches due to injury, the experienced striker is back for this one. The Egypt international is Ahly’s top scorer in this competition with four goals in the qualifiers. As it was, Ahly looked a little blunt up front without him in the group stages and coach Mohamed Yousseff is sure to use him tomorrow, most probably as an impact player coming off the bench to trouble the Buccaneers’ defence.
3 AL AHLY HAVE NOT LOST ON THE ROAD THIS CAMPAIGN
While Pirates have proved themselves unbeatable at home, Al Ahly have been super travellers in this campaign. The Egyptians have not lost any of their away matches en route to the final and they will know that stopping Pirates from spoiling their run will essentially see them having one hand on the trophy.
4 THE SECOND LEG IS TO BE PLAYED IN CAIRO
Pirates may have beaten Al Ahly in the group stages – thus becoming the first South African team to defeat the Red Devils in their own backyard. But that match was played out in El Gouna where the Egyptian giants have very little following. As it was, it appeared Al Ahly underestimated Pirates in that match, a mistake they are unlikely to make now. Besides that, Al Ahly were hamstrung before the break when they lost a man to a sending-off. They also missed a penalty in the first half and, in any case, the match was played behind closed doors. Things will be different next week, with Ahly having convinced authorities that they should move the match to the Air Defence Stadium in the capital, Cairo. Pirates will have it tough there.
5 THE RED DEVILS KNOW HOW TO WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Seven titles in the continent’s premier club knockout competition make Ahly the African continent’s most successful club. And of those wins, last year’s was particularly special and served to prove the Cairo side’s prowess. With the Egyptian League suspended due to the political unrest there, Ahly still managed to incredibly go all the way to winning the title. That they have got to the final again just goes to show how formidable an opposition Pirates are facing.