Africa: History Favors Injury Struck Ahly Against Saoura

After suffering back to back away defeats, record champions Al Ahly enter the ultimate match day game at home to Algeria's JS Saoura knowing that just a win can get them to the next round. The Red Devils entertain their debutant visitors at the Alexandria based Borg El Arab stadium on Saturday, with a place in the quarterfinals at stake.

The Egyptian giants Al Ahly started the group stage in a good form, grabbing seven points from their first three games. But they suffered a setback since then, falling to two 1-0 defeats at Tanzania's Simba and DR Congo's AS Vita. This left the eight time champions in a situation where only the maximum points will guarantee their passage to the knockout stages.

Ahly will have to do so amid some tough circumstances. First choice goalkeeper Mohamed Elshennawy injured himself in the defeat against AS Vita in Kinshasa last weekend, and with his substitute Sherif Ekramy also injured, third choice Ali Lotfy who came in to produce some good saves last match day will be the only solution for Uruguayan coach Martin Lasarte.

"We have full confidence in Lotfy", Ahly goalkeepers coach Tarek Suleiman told "He is a good goalkeeper, and can be up to the responsibility. Elshennawy would be ready before the game and I believe he would be on the bench", he added.

What gives Lasarte and the die-hard Ahly supporters some relief is the team's home record against Algerian clubs in CAF competitions. In nine previous home games against sides from fellow North African Algeria, Al Ahly had seven victories and just two draws. The last of which came in last season's semifinal first leg, when Ahly emerged victorious 2-0 against ES Setif in Cairo on their way to the final.

Both sides played for a 1-1 draw when they locked horns in the southern Algerian city of Bechar last January. Fawzi Cherif gave Saoura the lead at the hour mark, just for Karim "Nedved" Walid to equalize for the visitors five minutes from time.

JS Saoura leads the pack with 8 points, one richer than Ahly and AS Vita, with Simba following in that order with six points. The Tanzanians entertain Vita in Dar Es-salam in a simultaneous kickoff, with the group's top two sides qualifying to the quarterfinals. The knockout stages draw is scheduled on Wednesday, 20 March 2019 in Cairo, Egypt.

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