22 October 2018

Africa: Final At Sight for Former Champions Ahly and Setif

Record champions Al Ahly of Egypt are targeting a place in the final for the second year running when they visit Algeria's ES Setif, as the premier continental club competition reaches its penultimate stage with the semifinal return leg scheduled this Tuesday.

Al Ahly departed to Algeria on Sunday on the back of a 2-0 home victory three weeks ago. Waleed Suleiman and Islam Mohareb scored when both sides clashed at Cairo based Elsalam stadium to give Ahly a commanding lead before the return leg, with the record eight time African champions hoping for yet another appearance in the final on the expense of two time champions Setif.

"Setif is a very strong side, and reaching this stage on the expense of title holders Wydad (of Morocco) is not a coincidence", Ahly coach Patrice Carteron told CAFOnline.com before his side left Cairo. "It's not going to be an easy match despite the fact that we are taking a two goals advantage. The result isn't soothing as some people may think".

Having reached the final for a record 11 times before (won 8, lost 3), The "Red Devils" need to avoid losing in Setif to reach their 12th Champions League final and their second in a row. Carteron who took the job last June knows well what's at stake.

"We are playing to win, we are always doing that. Whatever the circumstances and whoever the opponent, our target is always victory in every game. The return leg is a totally different story and I told my players to forget all about the first leg result. We have to reach the final from Setif, and we will do whatever it takes to achieve this target", added the Frenchman who won the title in 2015 with DR Congo's TP Mazembe.

After suffering a string of injuries that saw key players as Nigerian Junior Ajayi and Tunisian Ali Maaloul sidelined, Carteron's side will be boosted with the availability of defender Saad Samir and midfielders Amr Elsoleya and Mohamed "Mido" Gaber who were given the green light to return to the squad after recovering from different injuries.

Meanwhile the Frenchman will be relying on the inform veteran Waleed Suleiman and Moroccan import Waleed Azaro to lead Ahly's attacking force. Suleiman scored 3 goals this term compared to Azaro's six.

The aggregate winner sets a date in the final with either Priemeiro de Agosto of Angola or Tunisian Esperance, with the cup, a 2.5 million US dollars prize and a place in the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup in United Arab Emirates at stake.

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