Since winning the elite African competition a record-extending eighth time in 2013 by overcoming Orlando Pirates of South Africa, the Cairo “Red Devils” have fallen on hard times.
They failed to reach the group stage the following two years and a third-place mini-league finish last season spelt an earlier-than-expected end to their campaign.
Ahly coach and former player Hossam el Badry has acknowledged that supporters are growing impatient for another Champions League title and a shot at the FIFA Club World Cup title.
“It is not a secret that our supporters are demanding that we win the Champions League this year,” he told the Egyptian media before leaving for Morocco.
“We want to add a ninth star to our shirts and to play again in the FIFA Club World Cup, where we have not performed to our full potential in past appearances.
“Our ambition is to win every competition we play in. Only trophies are a stake for us — nothing less,” added the 2012 Champions League-winning coach.
Ahly and Zanaco of Zambia top Group D with seven points after three rounds, 2016 semi-finalists Wydad have three and Coton Sport of Cameroon none.
CAF victories for clubs visiting Morocco are rare, but Ahly edged Wydad 1-0 in Casablanca at the same stage last year thanks to a Ramy Rabia goal.
Ahly comfortably overcame Wydad 2-0 in Cairo this month thanks to goals from Moamen Zakaria and Nigerian Oluwafemi “Junior” Ajayi.
Zanaco hope Ahly collect maximum points because victory over Coton in northern Cameroon city Garoua would then guarantee the Lusaka outfit a quarter-finals place too.
The Zambians won the first encounter against the 2008 Champions League runners-up 2-1 with Diddy Kitumbo nodding the winning goal five minutes from time.
Esperance of Tunisia are another team one win away from the knockout stage, and that could come at home Wednesday in Group C against title-holders Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
The two-time African champions are favoured having won 2-1 in Pretoria this month thanks to a brace from in-form Tunisian international Taha Yassine Khenissi.
If Sundowns fail and second-place Saint George of Ethiopia win at V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the defending champions’ chances of survival would greatly diminish.
Leaders Zamalek of Egypt, runners-up to Sundowns last year, visit 2015 beaten finalists USM Alger of Algeria for a Group B top-of-the-table showdown.
Al Hilal of Sudan surprisingly held Group A pacesetters Etoile Sahel in Tunisia and hope sauna-like heat and an intimidating Omdurman cauldron can help them win.
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