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Pitso Mosimane's Al Ahly running scared of Sundowns ahead of Saturday's showdown

FILE - Amro Mohamed Elsoulia of Al Ahly runs with the ball and is challenged by Sphelele Mkhulise and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during last year’s CAF Champions League quarter-final meeting at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Tshwane. Photo: BackpagePix

FILE - Amro Mohamed Elsoulia of Al Ahly runs with the ball and is challenged by Sphelele Mkhulise and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during last year’s CAF Champions League quarter-final meeting at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Tshwane. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Feb 21, 2022

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Cape Town — Al Ahly, the No 1-ranked African club, are running scared of Mamelodi Sundowns ahead of Saturday night's CAF Champions Group A clash at the 30,000-seater Al Salam Stadium in Cairo.

Saad Shalaby, Al Ahly’s Executive Director, said in an interview with Egyptian television network channel ONTime Sports TV' that the club has applied to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to allow fans to attend the match.

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“We are speaking with CAF and the security authorities to request fan attendance in the Al Ahly and Sundowns match,” Shalaby said ONTime Sport TV.

With fans in attendance, Al Ahly will enjoy considerable vocal support, and this may just provide the spark for Pitso Mosimane's team against Sundowns, his former club.

Al Ahly are overcome by fear in the light of their poor performance on Friday night in a Group A clash against an average outfit Al Hilal, the Sudan Premier League champions, who overshadowed the Egyptians in a goalless draw.

The match statistics show that Al Ahly dominated possession, but Al Hilal were 15-5 ahead in the shots at goal count. In the course of 90 minutes, Al Ahly had one lousy shot on target, as against four by the Sudanese team. Al Hilal held a 9-2 advantage in the corner count.

These statistics do not inspire confidence and Al Ahly's executive board have decided to play the 12th man to help lift the team's spirits against the South Africans.

There is every chance that Al Ahly may not be keeping their eye on the ball because of what has gone before between the two clubs, most notably the 5-0 drubbing in a 2019 quarterfinal clash, and today that result still rankles the Egyptians. It has gone down as the heaviest defeat for the 10-time champions in CAF Champions League history.

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It may be of concern to Sundowns that fans will be allowed to attend. Over the weekend, Sundowns played Sudan's Al-Merrikh at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo, and 5000 fans attended the match. Al-Merrikh do not have a home venue that conforms to CAF standards.

It may well be that Sudanese fans who made the three-hour flight to Cairo may have given their team an extra lift, and on the evidence of the match statistics, Al-Merrikh would have considered themselves unlucky not to win the match which ended in a goalless draw.

Meanwhile, AmaZulu will enjoy home comforts at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, on Friday when they host Algerian visitors ES Setif in a Group B Champions League match.

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South Africa may yet again prove to be an unlucky stop-over for Algerian football teams after Banyana Banyana handed their Algerian counterparts a 2-0 drubbing last Friday.

AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy has thrown down the gauntlet and urged his players to stake their claim for glory.

"We will stake our claim. We are not just AmaZulu, a novice team in this competition," said McCarthy. "We are not here to make up the numbers. We intend to go far.

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"We know it is extremely difficult and, most people won't give us a chance or an opportunity.

"I think we have as good of a chance of getting through the stages and surprising a lot of people. There's still a lot of growth in this team."

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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