CAF Champions League final preview

Posted by Firdose Moonda

A North African derby will mark the end this year's Champions League and the two teams contesting could not have been better picked. Egyptian giants Al-Ahly will play Tunisian heavyweights Esperance in the team's 11th meeting in the continental championship.

Al Ahly violence Egypt APThe events in Port Said remain very much in the conscious of Al-Ahly's supporters


The first leg of the final will take place in Alexandria instead of at Ahly's base in Cairo because officials wanted to open the doors to 20,000 fans. Spectators were not allowed into the semi-finals clash against Nigeria's Sunshine Stars as fears of violence still exist with the resolution of the Port Said trail some way from completion.

But, the country's ministry of the interior agreed to let people into the Borg al Arab Stadium for the final. The Ultras have given them the cold shoulder in response. They announced on their Facebook page that they will not enter the stadium because they want to protest against what they call the delay of justice for the deaths of those killed in February.

"Nine months have passed and we are still waiting for a verdict," they said in a statement. "Therefore we announce that neither Ultras Ahlawy or Ultras Devils will be present at the final or any other match before claiming the rights of our colleagues."

The fans will miss out on seeing marquee striker Mohamed Abou-Treika who makes a return to the starting XI after a two-month suspension. The veteran player was banned from competition when he decided to miss and Egypt Super Cup match to stand with the fans who did not want the game to go ahead because of the tragedy that occurred in the match against Al Masry.

Abou-Treika could be crucial to Al-Ahly's chances: he has already scored five goals in the campaign. Esperance, though, will be missing one of their key frontmen. Youssef Msakni had to have emergency appendicitis on Thursday and will need at least a week to recover. He may recover in time for the second leg but remains doubtful. Mskani and Cameroonian striker Yannic N'djing have scored 13 of the 18 goals the Blood and Gold have netted in the competition.

Apart from a heated regional derby, the match could be a historic one of many records. The most impressive may go the way of Al-Ahly’s central defender Wael Gomaa. If his team win, he will become the first player on the continent to win the Champions League five teams. He is one of the players who has been with Al Ahly since the 2001 Champions League campaign, which they won.

Since then, Al Ahly have won three more Champions Leagues finals, in 2005, 2006 and 2008. They also emerged victors in 1982 and 1987 to win a record six out of the eight times they have played in the final.

Esperance also have a prestigious record, having played in five finals and winnings twice. If they make defend their title, they will be play in the club world cup for the fourth time and become Africa's best team in that regard.

Ahly and Esperance have played each other 10 times in the Champions League and the head to head advantage belongs to Esperance. They have won three of the encounters, Ahly have won two and the five matches were drawn. Their most heated match-up was in the 2010 semi-final second leg.

Esperance won on away goals after Michael Eneramo scored an illegitimate goal off his arm.

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