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Holders Ahly face tough Mazembe test in CAF Champions League

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Al Ahly
Al Ahly players training at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam. PHOTO/Al Ahly
  • Ahly are seeking a 12th Champions Leaghue title
  • They start away to TP Mazembe
  • Sundowns face Esperance in the other match

Defending champions Al Ahly will take on TP Mazembe in the first leg of the CAF Champions League semi-final, looking to clinch a crucial result away from home in their bid for a record extending 12th African crown.

The Red Devils know it will not be easy against the resurgent Mazembe, and star striker Percy Tau has warned them it will be a difficult duel especially in Lubumbashi.

“I faced Mazembe before in the same stadium and I know how difficult it can be,” Tau said via the club’s social media channels.

He adds; “But we have experienced players in our squad who have been in such situations. We have managed to pull off big away results in the past and that is what we intend to do on Saturday.”

His sentiments are shared by teammate Anthony Modeste who says they expect a tough game, but are ready.

“Al Ahly fear no one but of course, we know the game will be difficult, but I am certain that we are ready for it physically and mentally. I hope that we play a good away game before the return leg, and as I said, we are ready to fight for the win and reach the final,” the former Borussia Dortmund forward said.

Ahly cautious in Mazembe approach


Al Ahly players hurdle before a training session. PHOTO/Ahly

Mazembe are back in the semis of the Champions League after facing several difficult years, and the five-time champions are keen to make their impact felt. They progressed to the last four after edging out Petro de Luanda 2-1.

Coach Marcel Koller who has seen his side do well this season also anticipates an equally tough duel.

Sundowns beam in confidence ahead of Esperance tie

Elsewhere, Mamelodi Sundowns will take on Esperance in the first leg semi-final of the CAF Champions League, seeking to earn a crucial result as they bid for their second Continental title.

Masandawana won the title back in 2016, and having been eliminated in the quarter finals last season, have learnt their lessons and are keen to go all the way to the final again.

Defender Thapelo Morena, speaking to the club’s website before the game, says they have prepared well and are looking to get a good result away, though he admits it will not be easy against the Tunisians.

“Of course, in the first few minutes they will come guns blazing especially because they are playing at home. The most important thing for us will be to try and close the sides and force them inside,” Morena said, speaking at how tactically the team is ready.

Expect a charged crowd in Rades


Mamelodi Sundowns players celebrate in a past match. PHOTO/Sundowns

The defender says they expect a charged away crowd, but mentally are prepared to shut that out and ensure it does not affect how they have prepared for the game.

“Our mindset is a bit different when we play in the Champions League because when you play away, you see the other teams’ supporters and how passionate they are at home. The atmosphere is going to be something else,” Morena continued.

The two teams have met twice before, in the 2017 season of the Champions League. They won 2-1 in the first leg in Pretoria, and drew 0-0 in the return game in Rades.

Head coach Rulani Mokwena also anticipates it to be a tough duel, but says they are ready.

“They are a really good team, well organized with fast and talented players. It is a game that we really need to be at our best in. We are playing away from home and getting a result will be crucial for us. We have trained well and everyone is ready to get into action,” the tactician stated.

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