Five-finger salute for Mamelodi Sundowns counts for nothing
Al-Ahly fans will give you a three-finger salute in reference to the 3-0 thumping Sundowns handed Zamalek in the first leg of the Champions League final in 2016. The Brazilians went on to be crowned African champions in the second leg in Alexandria.
A daredevil Al-Ahly fan did that three-finger salute outside Borg El Arab Stadium before the second leg and he was thoroughly beaten by Zamalek fans.
Zamalek supporters had their turn to taunt Al-Ahly following the 5-0 drubbing Sundowns inflicted on CAF’s Club of the Century in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals.
A five-finger salute is how Sundowns are greeted by those whose allegiances are with the White Knights.
Despite having crushed Egypt’s biggest teams, the Brazilians are met with respect, friendliness and hospitality when they touch down in the country.
They received that warmth when they arrived on Tuesday to prepare for Saturday night's first leg clash with Al-Ahly at Cairo International Stadium in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-finals tie.
The Red Devils will never forget that defeat; it is after all their biggest loss in the tournament they have won more than any other team on the continent.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane argued that Al-Ahly underestimated Sundowns, which led to the 5-0 scoreline that sent shock waves across the continent.
The eight-time African champions will not repeat that mistake.
“I don’t like talking about the past, the players are mentally ready,” Al-Ahly coach Rene Weiler told KingFut.
“We deal with tough games differently. Sundowns’ manager said that we were favourites to qualify but they are also a strong side. They were African champions in 2016 and won the league on several occasions and were able to beat Al-Ahly last season.
“We want to perform well, with ambition and determination, and at the end of the day luck plays a huge role.
“There is no room for pressure, Al-Ahly has big players and can deal with pressure, the most important thing is for them to execute what is asked from them on the pitch.”
The pressure is mostly on Al-Ahly, who have to make amends for the humiliation Sundowns inflicted on them.
Even though they have won the league, the Champions League is the club’s priority and anything short of that could lead to Weiler’s sacking.
Al-Ahly don’t compromise when it comes to this tournament.
In response, Mosimane is hyping his opponents and downplaying their chances of eliminating the Egyptian side at the same stage of the Champions League for two seasons in a row.
“Yes, winning 5-0 won’t put extra pressure on us but it will make it more difficult. This result will never happen again, especially against a side with Al-Ahly’s form,” Mosimane said at the pre-match press conference.
“The pressure might be on Al-Ahly, who will try to win by a big margin in Cairo.
“We’re coming up against them at the worst time as they beat every team they faced in the league, scored 40 goals and conceded only three goals.”