Al-Ahly are pressing to extend their title record, while Wydad Casablanca are pushing to defend their crown
Record Caf Champions League title holders Al-Ahly tread into a potential minefield when they clash with Horoya in a first leg quarter-final match in Conakry on Friday.
Horoya have proven to be tricky opponents this season especially after denying 2016 champions Mamelodi Sundowns a quarter-final place with a spirited performance in Tshwane last month.
But they now face eight-time champions Al-Ahly, who are gunning for their first Champions League title since 2013.
Al-Ahly have already set their sights on the second leg for which they have requested the Egyptian Football Association (Efa) to move the clash to Cairo despite the clash initially scheduled for Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab Stadium.
For the past few years, security concerns have forced the Cairo giants to play their Champions League home matches in Alexandria.
With Caf having agreed to move the return leg to Cairo, it is now up to the Egyptian authorities to give the green light for the switch.
Underlining how seriously they are already taking the second-leg is the fact that they want to maximise on home support at Cairo’s Al-Salam Stadium.
“The club’s administration has sent the Egyptian FA a letter asking them to inform security officials for the second time of (the desire) to hold the return leg against Horoya at Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo,” the club said in a statement.
“Caf have decided to move the match to Al-Salam Stadium upon the club’s request, given that attendance at Borg El-Arab Stadium did not meet their standards,” the statement added.
“The club asked the Egyptian FA for a quick response so that it can take the necessary procedures to host the match,” the statement continued.
But for now Al-Ahly have Friday’s away fixture to worry about as they travel to Guinea without striker Marwan Mohsen, who was injured while on national duty with Egypt last weekend.
Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi, Amr El-Sulya, Mido Gaber, and Bassem Ali will also miss the trip to Guinea due to injuries.
Enjoying a sensational season in which they are surprise quarter-finalists, Horoya could pull off a shock against the Egyptian giants.
The belief that Horoya’s French coach Victor Zvunka has in his players is of someone who is confident that Al-Ahly can be humbled in Conakry.
“Our objective was to reach the quarter-finals, but now we will try to go as far as possible,” Zvunka was quoted as saying by CafOnline.
“I have a squad of quality players, who are very attentive during training and work hard on matchdays. Working with them is such a pleasure.”
Moreover, the fact that Al-Ahly lost 2-0 to Ugandan champions KCCA in the group stages could inspire Horoya.
Meanwhile, Friday will also see the defending champions Wydad Casablanca in foreign territory as they face off against Algerian side ES Setif.
Wydad have been impressive in the tournament so far and face a Setif side that struggled to qualify for the quarter-finals and only managed to sail through on the final day of the group matches.
But Setif could also be spurred on by the fact that Wydad struggled to win away from home in the group stages, sharing the spoils in all three of their matches on the road.
With Wydad Casablanca ending the group stages on top of their pool, their intentions are very clear.
Morocco winger Mohamed Ounajem is in top form and could carry Wydad, who would be out to banish the ghost of failing to win away from home in the Champions League this season.
Interestingly, both sides are recent Caf Champions League winners with Setif last crowned champions four years ago, while Wydad are the title holders.
Algerian striker El Habib Bouguelmouna will be the match to watch for Wydad, who have conceded just two goals in six group matches and will hope to continue with their defensive discipline.