Sundowns to face Egypt's Al-Ahly in CAF Champions League quarters
JOHANNESBURG - The Hilton Pyramids Golf Hotel came to life in Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday night when Mamelodi Sundowns were drawn against Al-Ahly in the quarterfinals of the CAF Champions League.
The home crowd couldn’t hide their emotions, reacting loudly when the Brazilians’ name was drawn after that of the eight-time African champions. That noise was filled with nerves.
Sundowns have terrorised Egypt. They stunned Zamalek with a 3-0 win in the first leg of the 2016 Champions League before going on to lift the trophy in Alexandria.
Last season the Brazilians thumped Al-Ahly 5-0 in the first leg of the Champions League’s quarterfinals. They wrapped up the tie in Alexandria to advance to the semifinals where they were eliminated by Wydad Casablanca.
Ironically, if Sundowns and Wydad win their quarterfinals they will once again meet each other in the semifinals. The winner of the Al-Ahly vs Sundowns match will take on the winner of the Wydad vs Etoile du Sahel clash.
The reigning African champions, Esperance of Tunisia, will take on Zamalek in the quarterfinals, and the winner of that tie will face either Raja Casablanca or TP Mazembe in the semifinals. For the first time in the tournament’s history the final will be played in a neutral venue in a once off match instead of the home and away two-legged affair.
Sundowns will be hoping that they will be one of those two teams in the final after finishing the group stage unbeaten. Their success was based on a good home record, winning all their games in Pretoria.
Al-Ahly will know Pretoria well because that’s where CAF’s Club of the Century was turned into an ordinary team, humbled by a big defeat that people are still talking about to this day. It’s also in Pretoria where Sundowns beat Zamalek en-route to lifting the Champions League in 2016. Winning your home games is key to continental dominance.
This will be a tightly contested quarterfinals stage as this is the first time in the history of the tournament that the last eight is made up of teams who have won the Champions League. Just to show how dominant these teams have been in the Champions League, the winner of the Africa’s premier club competition has come from them every year since 2005 – except in 2014 when ES Setif broke their stranglehold.
The Brazilians will visit Al-Ahly on the last weekend of February and then host the return leg on the first weekend of March.
The full draw is:
Al-Ahly vs Mamelodi Sundowns
Raja Casablanca vs TP Mazembe
Zamalek vs Esperance
Wydad Casablanca vs Etoile du Sahel