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

Photo Credit: CAF Online

The 2022-23 season in CAF club competition will conclude with the crowning of the African club champions following Sunday’s second leg of the CAF Champions League final between Egypt’s Al Ahly and Moroccan champions Wydad AC at the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca. Al Ahly lead 2-1 after a first leg victory in Cairo but a late away goal and fierce home support for Wydad leaves them with plenty of momentum and optimism. The Moroccan giants will hope to repeat what they did last season against Ahly by securing an aggregate victory at their home venue.

Ahly appeared to be in control but a late Saifeddine Bouhra goal for visitors Wydad left The Red Castle and head coach Sven Vandenbroeck in a very optimistic mood following the first leg. The Belgian coach praised the mental fortitude of his team and referred to the semifinals when Wydad came back from a disappointing first leg result to overcome South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns as evidence of the resilience of Wydad. 45,000 Wydad supporters will be at the Stade Mohammed V to offer fierce support, a factor that was crucial when Wydad defeated Ahly in last year’s final.

The status of the hero from the final last season, Zouheir El Moutaraji, is in question due to injury after being in Vandenbroeck’s eleven for the first leg. El Moutaraji was replaced late by Bouhra and the 23-year-old may play from the beginning on Sunday along with playmaker Aymane El Hassouni to offer support for Senegalese striker Bouly Junior Sambou. Former Zamalek player Mohammed Ounajem is another option for Vandenbroeck in the attack, offering speed and trickery on his favored right flank.

In the first leg, Vandenbroeck played three central midfielders and it appears the Belgian trusts Jalal Daoudi, Reda Jaadi and captain Yahya Jabrane to bring stability to the Wydad midfield. A four-player backline with Yahya Attiyat Allah at left back, Ayoub El Amloud at right back and the partnership of Arsène Zola and Amine Farhane in the center offers plenty of experience and technical skill for the occasion. Youssef El Motie continues to prove himself at the goalkeeper position and earned his first call to the Morocco national team courtesy of his excellent performances since stepping in for injured regular starter Ahmed Reda Tagnouti.

Revenge continues to be on the mind of Al Ahly after the club and its supporters felt they were unfairly treated by CAF’s decision to have the final of last season played over one match in Casablanca, criticism that caused CAF to revert to a two-leg final. Ahly are in excellent form with a domestic league title approaching and looked like the superior team for long stretches in last week’s first leg. History is against Ahly considering they lost in the final to Wydad last season and in the 2017 edition but the squad of head coach Marcel Koller is experienced at playing in hostile environments. After expressing his anger at the officiating from the first leg, Koller expressed his hope that Ethiopian center official Bamlak Tessema Weyesa will be in top form.

Excellent news arrived for Koller and Ahly supporters with star goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy cleared to play in the second leg after third goalkeeper Mostafa Shobeir was forced to make a rare appearance in the first leg. The Egypt national team shot stopper praised Shobeir’s performance but the presence of El Shenawy will be a source of confidence for the defensive line in front of him. Mohamed Hany and Ali Maâloul are the reliable regulars at right and left back while the central defensive partnership will feature Mohamed Abdelmonem and either Yasser Ibrahim or Mahmoud Metwaly.

There have been few changes in the midfield and attack for Koller in the last couple of months. Kahraba is the established striker up top over Mohamed Sherif while Percy Tau and Hussein El Shahat, the stars of the first leg, are consistently producing their best football on the attacking flanks. A strong three-player midfield features Egypt national team player Hamdi Fathi and the imposing Malian Aliou Dieng ahead of Marwan Attia. Dieng and Fathi offer plenty of energy and the ability to contribute on both ends of the pitch and Attia is a reliable passer who very rarely makes a mistake.

More on the match from African and international media is in the links below.

CAF Champions League: Five facts and figures (Ahram)
الشناوي: الوداد ليس عقدة الأهلي (Kooora)


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