02 June 2017 01:35
Barely a week after claiming the Egyptian Premier League title, Cairo giants Al Ahly shift their focus towards yet another crucial campaign.
The Red Devils entertain their North African fellows Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco in a Group D top of the table clash on Sunday in Alexandria.
Ahly extended their unrivaled league record earlier this week, when they bagged their 39th title last Monday. A 2-2 draw away against second-place Misr El Makassa took their tally to 76 points, 13 more than the former with four games remaining. The Red Devils have now won the Egyptian Premier League for the second year running, widening the gap between arch rivals Zamalek, who have 12 titles in their cabinet.
But the celebrations had to be cut short; as the team turns its sight towards another competition they have won the most titles. Having won the CAF Champions League trophy eight times, Ahly are eyeing a record extending ninth glory this season, four years since they last conquered the continent in 2013.
“Our ambition is to play to win whatever the tournament we're going into,” Ahly coach Hossam El Badry said as his team celebrated the League trophy last Wednesday.
“Only trophies are at stake for us, nothing less”.
The 57-year old coach is having his third spell with his boyhood club, whom he led to continental glory in 2012. He returned to base last August, replacing Dutchman Martin Jol with the ultimate mission - to bring back the African Cup to the club headquarters in Gezira suburb of the Egyptian capital.
“It’s not a secret that all the fans keep demanding that we win the CAF Champions League this year. We want to add a ninth star on our shirt, and play again in the FIFA Club World Cup,” added El Badry.
Ahly leads the pack in Group D on goal difference, tied with Wydad on four points each. The Red Devils were surprisingly held to a goalless draw at home by Zambia's Zanaco, but responded immediately with an away 2-0 victory over Cameroon's Coton Sport in Garoua.
In Wydad, Ahly is up against a familiar foe. Both teams faced off at the same stage last year in the same competition. After a goalless draw in Alexandria, the Egyptians emerged victorious away in Casablanca with defender Ramy Rabiaa's goal separating the two sides.
They previously encountered each other at the same stage six years ago, in 2011, with no winner or loser over the two games. A 3-3 draw in Cairo was followed by a similar 1-1 draw in Casablanca in the reverse.
Ahly welcomes back the most decorated player ever in the history of the club, Hossam Ashour (won 31 trophies with the club over the past 13 years) who missed their last four league games through suspension.
Zambia champions, Zanaco will face off Coton Sport in the other Group D match on Saturday in Lusaka.
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