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CAF Champions League Final First Leg Preview: Al Ahly (EGY) vs. Wydad AC (MAR)

The undisputed top two clubs in Africa will meet in the final of the CAF Champions League for the second consecutive season as Egypt’s Al Ahly prepare to host defending champions Wydad AC of Morocco in Cairo for Sunday’s first leg. Last year’s final between the teams was won in Casablanca by Wydad and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) responded to criticism by restoring a two leg format for the latest edition.

First leg hosts Al Ahly are in excellent form with a dominant lead in the ongoing Egyptian Premier League, something that has allowed the African Club of the 20th Century to rest key players ahead of Sunday’s match. 50,000 supporters will be allowed into the Cairo International Stadium for the first leg to create an intimidating atmosphere for visitors Wydad.

Head coach Marcel Koller has plenty of reason to be confident but has one important absence due to injury after Egypt national team goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy was left off the list of players due to a calf injury. Experienced backup keeper Ali Lotfi has been included despite recovering from an injury but it looks like Koller will turn to inexperienced third keeper Mostafa Shobeir, who kept clean sheets in two Premier League matches against El Gaish and Ceramica Cleopatra with El Shenawy and Lotfi absent.

Egypt national team regular Mohamed Abdelmonem leads the defense from his central position with Mohamed Hany and Tunisian fullback Ali Maâloul key contributors at right and left back respectively. Marwan Attia is a calm distributor of the ball from his deep in the midfield and it should be Aliou Dieng and either Amr El Solia or Hamdi Fathi in front of Attia depending on if Fathi is full recovered from a recent knock. Percy Tau and Hussein El Shahat are the established regulars on the wings of the Ahly attack and controversial striker Kahraba should lead the forward line with five goals in the Champions League this season.

Wydad have experienced a turbulent 2022-23 season after so much success in the previous campaign where The Red Castle captured both Morocco’s Botola Pro as well as the Champions League. Belgian coach Sven Vandenbroeck, the fourth coach for Wydad in the current campaign, has restored the confidence of the supporters by going unbeaten in three domestic matches and guiding Wydad past a very difficult challenge from South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns in the semifinals.

The reigning Moroccan champions will also be without their first choice goalkeeper with Ahmed Reda Tagnouti out for an extended period but backup Youssef El Motie continues to perform admirably. Yahya Attiyat Allah continues to be a valuable presence at left back after featuring for Morocco during the 2022 FIFA World Cup and will line up on the opposite flank from right back Ayoub El Amloud who also likes to get forward and attack. Congolese central defender Arsène Zola is having an excellent first season at the club and should partner with Amine Farhane who returned to action from injury with an excellent goal against Moghreb Tétouan on May 29.

Yahya Jabrane, another member of the Morocco team at the recent World Cup, is the conductor and leader at the base of the Wydad midfield. Jalal Daoudi should also feature in the center of the midfield but needs to be disciplined after picking up nine yellow cards and two red cards across all competitions this season. Mohammed Ounajem is the winger who has featured the most under Vandenbroeck and will be on the right flank while either Zouheir El Moutaraji or Muaid Ellafi lines up on the opposite side. Senegalese striker Bouly Junior Sambou joins veteran Aymane El Hassouni as the main threats to score and was rested in the last match for the important occasion on Sunday. Sambou has nineteen goals this season with seven in the Champions League.

Below are plenty of links to stories from African media on the match for more information.

ON THE MARK: doing what’s best for Africa (SuperSport)

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