Al Ahly host Esperance Sportive de Tunis in the first-leg of the 2018 Caf Champions League final at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria tonight.
The Red Devils will be aiming to win an unprecedented ninth Caf Champions League crown with victory over their North African rivals this month, having fallen just short of adding to their record of eight titles last year – losing to Wydad Casablanca in the showpiece event.
Al Ahly booked their place in a 12th Caf Champions League final with a 3-2 aggregate win over ES Setif. The Egyptian giants suffered a 2-1 defeat in Algeria, but advanced thanks to a 2-0 win in the first-leg.
Esperance booked their place in a seventh Caf Champions League final following a controversial 4-3 aggregate win over Primeiro de Agosto.
The Tunisian’s suffered a 1-0 defeat in the first-leg in Luanda, resulting in the dismissal of Khaled Ben Yahia shortly after the encounter. His assistant, Mouine Chaabani, duly stepped into the hot-seat and safely guided the club into the final following a 4-2 win in the return-leg. Bet Now on NaijaBet
In the build-up to the final, Chaabani admitted that his troops suffered in their final-four showdown and hopes for an improved performance as they aim to get their hands on what will be a third Caf Champions League crown.
“Al Ahly are a great club in the continent,” Chaabani told Tunisian newspaper La Presse.
“They have much experience, but we are determined to win the title. We suffered a lot against Primeiro de Agosto and I hope that the players took the lesson from this nerve-wracking game, and understood that nothing is guaranteed in the world of football.
“The most important thing is to believe in your capabilities and to fight to reach your target,” he concluded.
His counterpart, Patrice Carteron, rescued the Egyptian giants from a poor start to successfully lead them to another continental final and the Frenchman will be hoping his good run continues as he aims to add to the Caf Champions League he won with TP Mazembe three years ago.
“I consider the two legs of the final as one game of 180 minutes,” Carteron said in a press conference earlier this week.
“I don’t think of playing the home match and then the away one in Radès separately. I only think that we will play 180 minutes in the African final.
“I have confidence in my players’ determination to deliver their best in the two matches,” he added.
Carteron continued: “Fans’ attendance in the first leg will be a good boost for our players to secure the best possible result. I always consider Ahly fans as a partner in our victories.
“The supporters deserve the best and I promise the team will deliver a strong game,” he concluded.
The two teams have locked horns on 16 previous occasions at various stages of the Caf Champions League, including the 2012 final. Following a 1-1 draw in Egypt, Al Ahly claimed a 2-1 win in the return fixture to lift the title.
Apart from a $2.5 million prize, the African champions qualify for the 2018 Fifa Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which guarantees at least another $1 million.
The reverse fixture will take place at the Stade Olympique de Radès next Friday, 9 November.