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African Football League gets to semi-finals stage

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Esperance celebrate after a goal in the AFL
  • Al Ahly play away to Mamelodi Sundowns
  • Wydad host Esperance
  • The winner of the tournament earns 4mn USD

The inaugural edition of the African Football League (AFL) gets to the semi-final stage this weekend, with two mouthwatering clashes set to light up the stage. The semis involve three North African teams, further underlining the gulf in class between the North and the rest of Africa.

Mamelodi Sundowns are the only non-North African team in the last four, and they welcome 11-time African champions Al Ahly in the first leg in Pretoria.

In the second semi-final, three-time African champions Wydad Athletic will welcome Tunisian side Esperance in Casablanca.

Sundowns and Ahly is expected to be fireworks in Pretoria, just like yester years.

Clashes between these two sides have always been mouthwatering, and the same is expected as they both battle to be in the final for the first ever AFL title.

Past ties between these two giants of African football have been balanced with each winning four of the last 12 meetings, while the remaining four ended in draws.

Their last meeting was in the group phase of last season’s Champions League, Masandawana winning 5-2 in Pretoria in the second leg, having played to a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Cairo.

Sundowns never lost to Ahly at home

Sundowns have never lost any of the six matches they have played with Ahly in South Africa, winning three and drawing three. They will hope this form continues when they take on the Red Devils on Sunday evening.

The South African champions progressed to the semis after beating Angola’s Petro de Luanda 2-0 on aggregate and they have been on a good run of form this season. Save for their elimination in the MTN8 Cup and the Carling Knockout Cup, both on penalties, Sundowns have been flawless this season.

But, they come up against a tough Ahly side, who have also been on a good run in their own domestic league in Egypt. They might have been forced to dig deep against Simba in the quarter finals where they progressed on the away goal rule, but the Egyptian giants will be no easy opponent for Sundowns.

Ahly have won the Champions League 11 times, and they are keen to become the first champions of the AFL trophy, to cement their status as the greatest team in Africa.

Head coach Marcel Koller and his charges know they should expect a tough outing in Pretoria, but he says he has prepared his side to battle for a good result that would make the burden in the return fixture lighter.

Difficult game 

“It will be a difficult game, but Ahly always wants to win. Sundowns is a big team with a big players but I will focus to ensure my team is ready. Our aim is to get the qualification to the final,” Koller said.

With memories of their huge defeat last time they played in Pretoria, Ahly will come better arm to make amends.

Meanwhile, Wydad will be at home against Esperance, last season’s Champions League losing finalists looking to make a good imprint of themselves.

Both teams managed to pass into the last eight after winning 3-0 in the second leg of their semi-final clashes, Esperance beating TP Mazembe while Wydad thrashed Nigeria’s Enyimba.

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