Al Ahly to salvage Caf Champions League glory against Saoura

Al-Ahly's Egyptian forward Walid Soliman (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the CAF Champions League semifinal first leg football match Al-Ahly vs ES Setif at al-Salam stadium. / AFP PHOTO / -

After suffering back-to-back away defeats, Egypt’s Al Ahly approach their final Caf Champions League group match at home to Algeria’s JS Saoura knowing that victory win can get them to the quarterfinals.

But the Red Devils entertain their debutant visitors at the Alexandria-based Borg El Arab Stadium on Saturday knowing they will have to be at their best to reach the last eight of the tournament.

Al Ahly started the group stages in a good form, grabbing seven points from their first three games.

But they then suffered a setback, slumping to 1-0 defeats at Tanzania’s Simba and DR Congo’s AS Vita.

This left the eight-time champions in a situation where only maximum points will guarantee their passage to the knockout stages.

Ahly will have to achieve this in some tough circumstances.

First choice goalkeeper Mohamed Elshennawy injured himself in the defeat against AS Vita in Kinshasa last weekend, and with his substitute Sherif Ekramy also injured, third-choice Ali Lotfy is the last man standing for Uruguayan coach Martin Lasarte.

“We have full confidence in Lotfy”, Ahly goalkeeping coach Tarek Suleiman told CAFOnline.com.

“He is a good goalkeeper and can be up to the responsibility. Elshennawy will be ready before the game and will probably be on the bench,” he added.

What gives Lasarte and the die-hard Ahly supporters some relief is the team’s home record against Algerian clubs in Caf competitions.

In nine previous home games against sides from Algeria, Al Ahly have had seven victories and just two draws – the last of which came in last season’s semifinal first-leg, when Ahly emerged victorious 2-0 against ES Setif in Cairo on their way to the final.

Both sides played for a 1-1 draw when they locked horns in the southern Algerian city of Bechar last January.

JS Saoura lead the group with eight points, one more than Ahly and AS Vita, with Simba following with six points.

The Tanzanians entertain Vita in Dar-es-Salaam in a simultaneous kickoff, with the group’s top two sides qualifying to the quarterfinals.

The draw for the knockout stages draw will take place on Wednesday, March 20, in Cairo, Egypt.

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