Two weeks after playing to an entertaining 2-2 draw in Cairo, Africa’s two top clubs will clash again when South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns host Egypt’s Al Ahly in Group B action from the CAF Champions League at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. A win would see Sundowns move back to the top of the group ahead of Sudan’s Al-Hilal Omdurman but the Brazilians will face an Ahly team who is in desperate need of a result.
Sundowns performed admirably in Cairo by fighting back to claim a point with a late goal from Thapelo Morena and now Masandawana are eager to put the Egyptian giants to the sword at home. Coach Rulani Mokwena heavily rotated his team for Sundowns’ last DStv Premiership match against Stellenbosch last weekend to ensure his best players were properly rested for the big occasion. “These are the games that the players have to get used to playing: big games with consequences behind the scoreline,” said Mokwena before the clash with regards to the importance of Saturday’s duel.
The South African titans will have a full strength attack for the match with Themba Zwane recently returning from injury to start the match in Cairo, making it likely he is set to join prolific striker Peter Shalulile and rising star Cassius Mailula in the forward line. Chilean playmaker Marcelo Allende was rested against Stellenbosch and needs to show his full potential after an up-and-down debut season so far. Ronwen Williams will return to start in goal behind central defenders Mothobi Mvala and Grant Kekana as well as fullbacks Khuliso Mudau and Aubrey Modiba.
Everything is going smoothly for Al Ahly in domestic competition but it has been a different story when it comes to the CAF Champions League. Ahly are on four points from three matches but fell in Sudan to Al-Hilal, who are five points clear of the Cairo club at the top of Group B. A win would send Ahly back into contention but a defeat will leave them with no margin for error in their final two matches. Head coach Marcel Koller has several injury concerns ahead of the match as fixture congestion continues to challenge the team’s depth.
It appears forward Ahmed Abdelkader will be back from a minor knee injury to join likely starter Percy Tau as the South African faces his former team, a foe he has failed to score against in three matches with Ahly. Hamdi Fathi and Aliou Dieng are likely to be in Koller’s eleven but Dieng’s form continues to be underwhelming. Algerian player Ahmed Kendouci and Mohamed Magdy “Afsha” are also candidates to start as more attacking options in the midfield as creative force Amr El Solia continues to recover from a muscle injury. Mohamed Abdelmonem will anchor the Ahly defense with fullbacks Mohamed Hany and Ali Maâloul while Mohamed El Shenawy continues as the starting goalkeeper.
More on both teams and pre-match comments are in the links below.