Nigerian International Junior Ajayi to lead the White Knight against the Casablanca giants in Saturday’s semi-finals first leg at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca.
Once again, Morocco’s Wydad stands in the way of a long-awaited African Champions League triumph for Ahly as both sides meet in a mouthwatering last-four first-leg clash in Casablanca on Saturday.
Three years ago, a powerful Ahly side looked well equipped to win the coveted trophy for the first time since 2013 after reaching the final, only to be denied by the vibrant Wydad, inspired then by Moroccan winger Achraf Bencharki, who is now in the ranks of Ahly’s Cairo nemesis Zamalek.
Wydad won 2-1 on aggregate but Ahly had another shot at the elusive trophy the following year, only to lose again, this time at the hands of Tunisia’s Esperance.
Ahly have a chance this year to settle the score with Wydad and reach their third final in four years, and in coach Pitso Mosimane they have a new-found belief.
“I know Wydad well, they are a strong team, and we respect them, and they also know Ahly very well. But we are here to have a positive result, and why not come back home with a win,” the South African boss, who succeeded Swiss Rene Weiler on 1 October, told CAFonline.com.
“We have many injured players, but I cannot complain. This is football and we played some games without our key players and still got positive results. I believe in my team.”
In their few games under Mosimane, Egyptian Premier League champions Ahly appeared more compact and relied more on a possession-based style, at times producing an intricate passing game.
But the biggest question that Mosimane will face is whether he can plug the gaps in Ahly’s backline, which is missing three central defenders through injury — Rami Rabia, Mahmoud Metwalli and Saad Samir.
A recent injury that hit Ayman Ashraf left Ahly with just one recognized centre back in Yasser Ibrahim, who usually commits costly errors.
However, Ashraf has recovered and should be fit to partner Ibrahim against Wydad, with Mosimane saying he is ready to introduce a natural midfielder in the heart of defence in case of any emergency.
Wydad could be also facing a shortage at the back, with reports suggesting that Salaheddine Saidi, a natural midfielder who was expected to be deployed in defence, will miss the game after contracting COVID-19.
Ivorian defender Cheick Comara is also doubtful due to an injury.
“This is a crucial game. Our target is to go to the final and lift the cup,” said Wydad coach Miguel Gamondi.
“We had a tight schedule in the Moroccan ‘Botola’, but my players are ready. I thank them for their great efforts despite being exhausted and especially amidst this pandemic.
“We are looking forward to achieving a good result before the return leg in Cairo.”