Crunch clash for Al Ahly in CAFCL Matchday 5

Matchday 5 of the CAF Champions League on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 March will be opened by a crunch clash for the tournament’s reigning title holders Al Ahly.

The 10-time African champions face a must-win Group A match away to Sudan’s Al Merrikh on Friday evening which could go a long way in determining their continued participation in the tournament.

The Red Devils have suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns in the past two Matchdays, leaving them in a three-way tie (on four points) with Sudanese sides Merrikh and Al Hilal – with Sundowns way out in front (10 points) and all but certain to claim one of the two quarterfinals berths available in Group A.

Ahly will have an advantage for this ‘away’ clash given that it will take place in their own stadium in Cairo, due to Merrikh’s lack of a CAF-approved home venue, and manager Pitso Mosimane has insisted that his team will put their losses to his former club behind them and qualify for the knockout rounds.

“All the time, group stages will deceive you,” said the South African tactician. “We have the experience of the group stages…look at what happened in the last two, three years [after struggling in group stages, they went on to claim the trophy in 2020 and 2021]. You can win six out of six and finish top of the group, let’s go to the knockout phase and the semifinals.”

The other Group A match takes place on Saturday afternoon in Omdurman, where Hilal hosts Sundowns. The Brazilians need only avoid defeat to guarantee a quarterfinal berth, though that could already be handed to them on Friday with an Ahly win or draw in Cairo.

Friday will also be a key day in Group B, with the early evening seeing AmaZulu take on Raja Casablanca in Durban, while the late kick-off has ES Setif tackling Horoya AC in Algiers.

Just six points separates the four teams, all of whom remain in the running to qualify, though Raja are the closest to advancing and need only a draw to secure a quarterfinal ticket.

Saturday sees Esperance de Tunis and CR Belouizdad looking to lock out the top two places in Group C with their matches away to Jwaneng Galaxy and at home to Etoile du Sahel respectively (draws would be enough for both), while Group D’s interest now lies in seeing who will finish top between Petro de Luanda and Wydad Casablanca – both of whom are already guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals.

Petro, who are unbeaten and have taken 10 points from a possible 12, will be at home to Zamalek on Saturday afternoon, while Wydad (one point behind) will play at the same venue (Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda) against Sagrada Esperanca in a late kick-off.

“We are the first Moroccan team to beat Zamalek in Cairo, which I consider a great achievement against a great team,” said Wydad coach Walid Regragui.

“We succeeded in imposing our style of play against Zamalek, closing the spaces and giving them almost no chances.”

CAF Champions League Matchday 5 fixtures

Times CAT

Friday 18 March

6pm: Al Merrikh v Al Ahly

6pm: AmaZulu v Raja Casablanca

9pm: ES Setif v Horoya AC

Saturday 19 March

3pm: Petro de Luanda v Zamalek

3pm: Al Hilal v Mamelodi Sundowns

6pm: Jwaneng Galaxy v Esperance de Tunis

9pm: Sagrada Esperanca v Wydad Casablanca

9pm: CR Belouizdad v Etoile du Sahel

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