Egyptian giants Al Ahly are looking for their third straight CAF Champions League triumph but will have to travel to Casablanca for the final and a date with Morocco’s Wydad AC. With the top prize in African club football at stake, plenty of controversy has come with CAF’s decision to stage the final at Wydad’s home ground, the Stade Mohammed V, but an appeal from Ahly to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was rejected. For the sold out occasion, 10,000 tickets for each club are available to supporters while 20,000 are available to the general public.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding the choice of venue, Al Ahly will be the favorites to once again book a spot as Africa’s representative in the FIFA Club World Cup. However, Pitso Mosimane and his squad have not enjoyed the best form heading into Monday’s clash with only one win in their last five Egyptian Premier League matches. Mosimane attributed the struggles and muscle injuries accumulated to match congestion but will be welcoming back a fully healthy midfield following confirmation of Amr El Solia, Aliou Dieng and Hamdi Fathi’s availability. The legendary South African manager has plenty of pressure on him to deliver a positive result on Monday with continuing speculation from club supporters about his suitability for the position.
It appeared that center back Mohamed Abdelmonem may miss out on Monday due to injury but the Egypt national team starter is cleared for action, and he will likely partner Aymen Ashraf in the middle of defense. Tunisia national team left back Ali Maâloul will offer crossing ability and technical skill at full back while Mohamed Hany is set to start on the right flank. Steady presence and Egypt national team starter Mohamed El Shenawy will be in goal despite some injury concerns in the last couple of weeks.
The aforementioned midfield trio of El Solia, Dieng and Fathi should start with Mohamed Magdy “Afsha” another option who may instead play in position further forward. The forward line provides a wealth of options for Mosimane but the one guarantee is that he will likely start trusted fellow South African Percy Tau up top due to his explosiveness and ability to deliver big moments. Hussein El Shahat and Ahmed Abdelkader have been the favored wide forwards but Afsha, Mohamed Sherif and Taher Mohamed are all viable candidates to start in the forward line as well.
For the hosts Wydad there is plenty of pressure as well with all of Moroccan football behind them in their bid to upstage Ahly. Upcoming manager Walid Regragui has maintained a disciplined approach to the match by monitoring his players and keeping his team’s preparations under plenty of secrecy. While Ahly are welcoming back starting players, Wydad have several usual starters who are questionable for Monday’s showdown due to injury. As far as form, WAC have not lost a match since their 2-0 league defeat to Hassania Agadir in late February.
Ahmed Reda Tagnouti, the third goalkeeper for the Morocco national side, will be between the sticks for WAC but the picture is not as clear in front of him. Stalwart center back Achraf Dari complained of a muscle injury after going the full ninety minutes in a league win over Olympique Khouribga but should be available to start alongside regular center back partner Amine Farhane. Yahya Attiyat Allah offers excellent service moving forward from the left back position while it remains to be seen if regular right back Ayoub El Amloud will play due to injury issues. Yahya Jabrane is a leader and tough presence who will protect the back four from his defensive midfield position.
The injury issues are particularly problematic in the Wydad midfield, which include central midfielders Reda Jaadi and Jalal Daoudi, although it seems that Jaadi will be ready for Monday. Zouheir El Moutaraji and Aymane El Hassouni are prominent goal scoring options but El Moutaraji may be reduced to a substitute role as he races to be fit after missing WAC’s last three matches while questions remain over the status of El Hassouni.
Libya national team winger Muaid Ellafi is certainly out due to a long-term injury and the two options to fill in out wide in the midfield are Badie Aouk and 21-year-old WAC youth product Abdellah Haimoud. Congolese national team striker Guy Mbenza should start up top with countryman and attacking physical presence Juvhel Tsoumou being a specialist at making an impact when coming off the bench.
Check out the articles below for further reading on Monday’s CAFCL final.