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CAFCL Second Leg Preview: Raja CA (MAR) vs. Al Ahly (EGY)

Egypt and Morocco’s successful teams in the CAF Champions League clash again in Casablanca on Friday for the second leg of their quarterfinal tie with a place in the semifinal on the line. Defending CAFCL winners Al Ahly carry a slim 2-1 margin from their first leg victory in Cairo but wasted plenty of opportunities to extend their lead and lost focus in conceding an away goal. Raja have vengeance on their mind due to controversial refereeing in the first encounter will have a fierce crowd behind them but also have a couple of key defensive absences as they attempt to overcome a one-goal deficit and stun 13-time CAFCL champions Ahly.

Raja manager Rachid Taoussi continued to maintain the confidence he displayed in pre-match comments last week, declaring that his team will be need to be up for the occasion in front of their passionate supporters as well as mentioning he even prepared his team for a penalty kick shootout if the tie requires it. Accompanying Taoussi at the press conference was 36-year-old playmaker and captain Mohsine Moutouali, who echoed his coach in describing Friday’s encounter as a match with an entirely different atmosphere compared to the first leg in Cairo. Moutouali labeled his team’s first leg performance as “our worst of the season” and noted the Greens are aware they need to improve for the massive occasion.

Red carded in the first leg, giant center back Marouane Hadhoudi will not be available but another big blow arrived with news that tough tackling defensive midfielder Omar Arjoune will be out due to injury. Dutch-born veteran Ilias Haddad is a more than capable replacement for Hadhoudi while veteran Mohamed Nahiri returns from suspension to patrol the left flank at the full back position.

Arjoune’s leadership will be difficult to replace but Congolese midfielder Fabrice Ngoma is the obvious candidate to step in. Moutouali will be crucial in attack to provide the decisive moments and Hamid Ahadad is a hard working forward who can also provide goals for a Raja attack that can go cold at times.

Ahly and manager Pitso Mosimane wanted no part in discussing the controversial penalty kick his team benefitted from to open the scoring in Cairo but expressed confidence in his team to progress, citing the numerous important matches his team has played in over the past year. Along with being more efficient, Mosimane and the veteran leaders of the squad emphasized bringing a fighting spirit to Casablanca and the team closely studied video of Raja’s attack to keep the Green Eagles off the scoreboard. Ahly president Mahmoud El Khatib met with the squad in their hotel and told them to focus on the task at hand, promising the team a big reward if they confirm their spot in the semifinals.

After being reduced to coming on as a halftime substitute, central midfielder and Egypt national team member Hamdi Fathi should return to the starting eleven to add extra stability to the Ahly midfield. He and Aliou Dieng will make Ahly difficult to break down while Amr El Solia provides the technique and passing to connect the defense and midfield to the three-player attacking line.

It is difficult to forecase who Mosimane will start in the attack but 22-year-old Ahmed Abdelkader continues to be in excellent form and Hussein El Shahat has rediscovered his scoring touch, making them likely to start along with either Percy Tau or Mohamed Sherif who have both failed to score in their last four matches. Attacking left back Ali Maâloul is a question mark to start due to injury as well as playmaker Mohamed Magdy “Afsha”.

60,000 Fans to Attend Raja-Al Ahly CAF CL 2nd Leg (Sada ElBalad)


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