Friday, 16 October 2020

Wydad Casablanca host Al Ahly for first leg of 2019-20 Caf Champions League semifinal


Africa's eyes will be locked on Casablanca and particularly Stade Mohamed V on Saturday evening when Wydad Casablanca host Al Ahly for the first leg of their 2019-20 Caf Champions League semifinal.

Wydad booked their place in the final four with a 2-1 aggregate win over Etoile du Sahel across February and March this year, with the semifinals of this season's competition taking place five months after its originally planned dates due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2017 champions are still smarting from a dramatic final day of Botola Pro action in which they narrowly missed out on league glory to crosstown rivals Raja Casablanca.

The Caf Champions League offers Wydad head coach Miguel Ángel Gamondi and his troops a chance to rescue what would otherwise be deemed a failure of a season.

Gamondi, who was co-coach alongside Neil Tovey when Mamelodi Sundowns won the South African league title in 2006, has overseen eight matches since taking over the reins from Juan Carlos Garrido at the Moroccan club, winning five and drawing three.

In fact, there is a huge Sundowns element to this weekend's showdown, with former Brazilians boss Pitso Mosimane to lead Al Ahly. Mosimane left Sundowns after eight successful years in which he won the 2016 Caf Champions League title to succeed Rene Weiler in Cairo earlier this month.

“Of course it was not easy for me to come to Ahly and leave Mamelodi Sundowns that I have so much respect for my team. I spent eight years at Sundowns and it’s not easy just to move away from a team that you have spent eight years with," said Mosimane on his arrival at the African 'Club of the Century'.

“I think that shows how big Ahly is. And Ahly is respected on the continent and is respected in South Africa.

"That is why I’m not taking for granted where I am – I know where I am.

“And I know the responsibilities of my work here. I know the pressures and the stresses. Because it’s not the first time I’m in Egypt – I’ve seen the pressure of playing in the Caf Champions League against Al Ahly and Zamalek," he concluded.

Before joining the Egyptian Premier League champions, Mosimane faced Wydad on 10 occasions in the Caf Champions League as Sundowns boss over the last three years. In total, he claimed three wins while losing on four occasions and drawing the other three matches.

Al Ahly booked their place in the final four with a 3-1 aggregate win over Sundowns and are aiming to reach the final of Africa's premier club competition for the third time in the past four years. The Red Devils are the most successful team in the competition's history, having won the title on eight previous occasions, but they haven't tasted success on the continent since 2013 when they beat Orlando Pirates.

The Egyptian giants lost to Wydad in the 2017 final before losing to Esperance de Tunis a year later. In total, Al Ahly and Wydad have met eight times in Africa's elite club competition since 2011 and each side has claimed two outright wins apiece.

Wydad are vying for their third title, having lost to Esperance in last season's final in dramatic fashion after their controversial abandonment of the second-leg.

The return match between these teams is set for Alexandria on Saturday 23 October, with the winners facing either Zamalek or Raja Casablanca in the final on 6 November.

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