Egyptian giants, Al Ahly will start their group stage campaign on Saturday, 13 May 2017, when they play host to Zambia champions, Zanaco, in a Group D clash at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria.
The game serves as the Group D curtain raiser, before Moroccan side Wydad Athletic Club battles Coton Sport of Cameroon 24-hours later in Casablanca.
Record champions, Ahly are targeting a positive start in their quest to regain the title they last won in 2013. Since then, the Red Devils exited the premier continental club championship at the 1/8th round in 2014 (going all the way to win the second tier CAF Confederation Cup the same year) and 2015. The eight-time winners also failed to go past the group stage of the CAF Champions League last year.
And their quest for a ninth crown will be led by the class of 2012 winning coach, Hossam El Badry. The ex-right back took charge of the Cairo-based side for the third time last August, after Dutchman Martin Jol resigned following the CAF Champions League failure. His first spell with Ahly was in 2009 before leaving the job a year later. He was back at the helm in 2012, leading the Red Devils to conquer the continent, claiming the 2012 CAF Champions League and CAF Super Cup the following year.
Our target is to win every tournament we play,” El Badry said after his side defeated El Nasr Taadeen 4-0 in a domestic league game last Monday.
Now we shift our focus to the CAF Champions League. We need a positive start that will give us a bold step towards the next round.
Ahly currently lead the pack in the Egyptian Premier League with 74 points, 11 more than second place Makassa with six games to spare. It’s a matter of time before they wrap up the title for a record extending 39th time, but El Badry seems not overtaken by the near done feat.
It’s not over until it’s over. We’ve done a good job till now, but have won nothing yet. All what’s on my mind now is the CAF Champions League game against Zanaco.
They (Zanaco) are a very good side. I’ve watched some games of them and I know they are going to be a tough opponent to play against. At this level all teams are good, and everyone wants to qualify to the next stage, added El Badry.
Ahly will hope that in-form striker Souleymane Coulibaly keeps his scoring streak. The 22- year old Ivorian, once on the books of English side, Tottenham Hotspur, has scored six goals in eight games since joining the Red Devils from Scottish side Kilmarnock last January. Much will also be expected from Nigeria-born Junior Ajayi and playmaker Abdallah El Said, which netted his first career hat-trick earlier this week in the 4-0 win over El Nasr.
The group stage has been expanded to 16 clubs instead of the usual eight, which gives the chance for more teams to compete for the Holy Grail of African club football, in addition to $2.5 million prize-money and a ticket to the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football