Al Ahly will be eyeing a comfortable lead against Mamelodi Sundowns, ahead of the second leg, in this most anticipated CAF Champions League quarterfinal match. The match is on 29th Feb, 2020 in Cairo. Kickoff time is 1800 CAT.
Al Ahly Probable XI: El Shenawy – Hany, Rabia, Yasser, Maaloul – Dieng, Sulaya – El Shahat, Afsha, Sobhy – Ajayi (4-2-3-1)
Sundowns Probable XI: Onyango – Madisha, Nascimento, Arendse, Lebusa – Maboe, Kekana, Jali, Zwane – Vilakazi, Sirino (4-4-2)
What is at stake?
Sundowns concluded a highly successful CAF Champions League group campaign and have maintained form ever since. Unfortunately, the team’s great results in February have come at a great cost. A good number of Sundowns players are confirmed out of this match or need to pass late fitness tests to play.
This will be another psychological barrier to add to the fact that Masandawana have never scored against Al Ahly in Egypt. Pitso Mosimane can take solace in the fact that Ahly have not been convincing in any of their “big matches”this season.
Weiler lost away to Etoile Sahel and got a draw in Omdurman against Al Hilal. The Cairo giants could only earn a narrow win at home to off-form Etoile and a controversial one against Pyramids FC. The other big match they played was the Egyptian Super Cup against Zamalek and they lost that too.
What will the match be like?
Rene Weiler has eased-in Ramadan Sobhi back from injury and it will be surprising if he doesn’t start. The winger has not featured for the side since December 2019. He will provide much needed dynamism even by only coming off the bench.
The other question marks on who will start for Ahly are at right-back and striker position. Hany and Fathi have been starting CAFCL and League matches respectively. It could happen but it is unlikely that Weiler will swap the two.
As for striker, Marwan Mohsen is clearly now down the pecking order seeing that Aliou Badji is intended to be the main man. The Senegalese, though, has not blown anyone’s mind so far and as such we do not expect him to start.
Weiler will be wise to opt for Junior Ajayi.
On the other hand, Sundowns have to chop and change their starting XI. The defense is in disarray as Morena (RB) and Langerman (LB) are sidelined with injuries. Second choice right-back, Ngcongca and Ricardo Nascimento(CB) are doubtful.
Lukhubeni was to slot at right-back but Pitso is unlikely to play an inexperienced player in such a high stakes match. Sundowns have already lined up with 4 center-backs this season and we could witness something similar. Otherwise, the rest of the lineup will be familiar.
Sundowns’ troubled fullback position will be matched up against Ahly’s wingers. This is arguably Al Ahly’s strongest position. Pitso Mosimane may have to change philosophy to play narrow and conservative. Their aim will be to hold out the Egyptians as long as they can. We expect Sundowns to step up in the game late on. But Ahly will be settle in the match quickly as they eye an early goal.
Al Ahly 1-0 Sundowns
Defensive approach is not second nature for this Sundowns. Therefore, it will be a hard ask for them to weather the storm that is Al Ahly for 90 minutes.