Al Ahly desperate to avoid second African blow
25 April 2014, 09:11
Johannesburg - Egyptians Al-Ahly want to avoid a second African exit within two months when they defend a one-goal CAF Confederation Cup lead at Moroccans Difaa El-Jadidi this weekend.
The Cairo 'Red Devils' were shock losers to Libyans Al-Ahly Benghazi in the final qualifying round for the CAF Champions League as they chased a record third consecutive title.
Defeat meant demotion to the second-tier Confederation Cup and a laboured 1-0 home win over Jadidi last weekend leaves the two-leg play-off delicately balanced.
Under-pressure Ahly coach Mohamed Youssef, who often wakes to Cairo media speculation about who will succeed him, is confident of making the group stage.
"Our first-leg lead will be enough to see us through," he told Egyptian reporters. "Not conceding a goal at home was very important.
"It will not be easy in Morocco as we must play in a small stadium packed with Jadidi supporters. I believe our African experience will be vital."
Youssef, who led the club he once played for to a record-extending eighth Champions League title last November, can call on several first-leg absentees.
Experienced midfielder Hossam Ashour and young striker Amr Gamal missed the win in Cairo owing to one-match bans.
Mohamed Naguib is fit again and fellow defender Sayed Moawad has settled differences with Youssef.
There will be a late fitness test for former Hull City striker Mohamed 'Gedo' Nagy, who was substituted in a first leg won by an Abdullah Al-Saied goal.
'Gedo' took Africa by storm at the 2010 Cup of Nations in Angola, continuously coming off the bench to score vital goals for eventual champions Egypt.
Jadidi won all three Confederation Cup home qualifiers this year, scoring eight unanswered goals against Burkinabe Sonabel, Gambians Gamtel and Rwandas Kigali at the 10,000-seat Stade El-Abdi.
Algeria-born coach Abdelhak Ben Chikha told the Moroccan media: "We can overcome the first-leg deficit because there is tremendous team spirit within my squad."
Ayoub Nanah could be a key figure for the Moroccans having scored five Confederation Cup goals this season, including a hat-trick.
Nigerians Bayelsa United and Ghanaians Medeama have home advantage as they try to wipe out 2-0 losses at Ivorians Sewe San Pedro and Congolese AC Leopards respectively.
Bayelsa, who reached the 2009 semi-finals, will draw hope from two-goal home victories over Congolese Kondzo and Zimbabweans How Mine en route to the play-offs.
African rookies Medeama have the tougher task as surprise 2012 Confederation Cup winners Leopards are a combative outfit at home and away.
Tunisian clubs have won the competition a record four times and 2006 title-holders Etoile Sahel and 2013 semi-finalists CA Bizertin should make the April 29 group-stage draw in Cairo.
Etoile, guided by France Euro 2000-winning coach Roger Lemerre, host Guineans Horoya after a 0-0 first-leg stalemate and Bizertin have home advantage over Zambians Nkana following a similar scoreline.
Nkana are among three southern Africa challengers, but only Angolans Petro Atletico are likely to survive having lost 2-1 at Cameroonians Coton Sport.
South Africans Kaizer Chiefs appear doomed as they visit Ivorians ASEC trailing 2-1, and will field a 'B' team to save first choices for key domestic league and cup fixtures.
A Malian derby between 2012 runners-up Djoliba and Real Bamako, who lead 2-1, completes the eight-fixture schedule.
For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page!