Mamelodi Sundowns and Al Ahly, African football giants, clash in an AFL semi-final, with history, rivalry, and a title at stake.
Mamelodi Sundowns hosts record African champions Al Ahly in what is expected to be a grand duel in Pretoria, the two giants clashing in the first leg of the African Football League semi-finals.
Sundowns, the home of Harambee Stars defender Brian Mandela, are gearing up for a thrilling showdown against the formidable Red Devils from Egypt.
Clashes between these two sides have always been mouthwatering, and the same is expected as they both battle to be in the final for the first-ever AFL title.
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Past ties between these giants of African football have been balanced, with each winning four of the last 12 meetings, while the remaining four ended in draws.
The most recent encounter occurred during last season's Champions League group stage, where Masandawana triumphed 5-2 in Pretoria during the second leg, following a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Cairo.
Sundowns have an impressive record when facing Al Ahly on home turf, having never tasted defeat in six matches, clinching three wins and settling for three draws.
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The South African champions have been on a remarkable streak this season, with only penalty shootout eliminations in the MTN8 Cup and the Carling Knockout Cup marring their otherwise flawless record.
Sundowns' coach, Rulani Mokwena, acknowledges the high level of competition in the AFL and the caliber of teams involved.
"The level has been very, very high. The teams are very good from what I watched – catching up with all the games," he said.
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Mokwena emphasizes the importance of key players for their success, expressing a heartfelt desire for divine intervention, stating, "My prayer is that He resurrects and brings back Lucas (Riberiro Costa), Peter (Shalulile) and Thapelo (Morena) as soon as possible because for sure, they make a difference."
However, standing in their path is the formidable Al Ahly, a club boasting 11 Champions League titles, eager to make history by becoming the first champions of the AFL trophy, solidifying their status as the continent's preeminent team.
The Egyptian giants faced a tough challenge in the quarter-finals against Simba but advanced on the away goal rule, demonstrating their resilience and tenacity. They are determined not to be an easy opponent for Sundowns, setting the stage for an intense battle.
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Marcel Koller, the head coach of Al Ahly, anticipates a demanding match in Pretoria and has prepared his team to secure a positive result to ease the pressure in the return fixture. Koller emphasizes the team's commitment to victory.
"It will be a difficult game, but Ahly always wants to win. Sundowns is a big team with big players, but I will focus to ensure my team is ready. Our aim is to get the qualification to the final," he said.
With memories of their previous heavy defeat in Pretoria, Al Ahly is poised to rise to the challenge and seek redemption.
As the two titans prepare to collide in this momentous clash, the history between Mamelodi Sundowns and Al Ahly serves as a testament to their footballing prowess. Their rivalry has produced thrilling encounters and captivating drama, making this upcoming semi-final fixture an unmissable spectacle.
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In their last 12 meetings, the teams have maintained an equilibrium, with each side securing four wins, and the remaining matches culminating in draws.
With both teams having an equal share of victories, this semi-final promises to be a closely contested battle where every moment could shift the balance.
The most recent showdown occurred during the group stage of last season's Champions League. Sundowns emerged victorious with a resounding 5-2 triumph in Pretoria during the second leg, following a hard-fought 2-2 draw in the first leg in Cairo.
Sundowns' impressive record on home soil against Al Ahly further intensifies the intrigue. Having never suffered defeat in the six matches played in South Africa, Sundowns have secured three wins and three draws.
The Msandawana's home advantage and familiarity with the conditions could prove to be a significant asset as they aim to secure a favorable outcome in the first leg of this semi-final.