كتب : محمد سبع | السبت، 15 نوفمبر 2008 - 13:29

Ahli's road to a sixth Champions League title

Only a few hours to go before the much anticipated CAF Champions League final between Egyptian champions Ahli and Cameroonian rivals Coton Sport.

Egypt's streets have witnessed mixed feelings about Ahli's chances of landing a record-breaking sixth Champions League title and in turn becoming the first team on the planet to make the FIFA Club World Cup finals on three occasions.

Ahli's players undoubtedly shoulder a huge responsibility as they go into this final encounter, but is the feeling of unrest among the Egyptian public justified?

Contemporary history says it is and Ahli players should be well aware of that as they have been involved in such a twist of fate on two previous occasions, the 2006 and 2007 African finals.

Nevertheless, we have to revert to logic, which favors the Egyptian kings on their quest for yet another prestigious title. While pundits have highlighted the threat posed by Coton's players, and their ability to score a handful of goals at home, they have failed to take into consideration Ahli's away record this season, which is more than admirable.

But numbers also state that Coton Sport have not lost a continental game at home in over seven years, but Ahli's goal will not be to beat their hosts, it will be to defend their two-goal advantage from the first leg. Therefore, while Coton Sport have only one way out, Ahli coach Manuel Jose has three options: win, draw or lose by one goal.

And while Jose claims he will target Coton's defenses in search of a goal that will seal the game in Ahli's favor, it would be silly to expect the Portuguese tactician to go all out on attack.

What will Jose do?

People have often criticized Jose for losing his attacking touch, one that highlighted his first spell with the Red Devils in 2001 and once again in the first season of his return to Ahli in 2004.

But it is only logical that Jose's approach changes to that of a more tactical more conservative one, because at the beginning, he had nothing to lose, while now it will be a big risk to take given his and Ahli's household names in African competition.

So it is safe to assume that Jose will not start the game in Garoua with two strikers and will stick to his much-used 3-5-1-1 formation.

Jose will be relying on players like Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Barakat and Gilberto to maintain the midfield balance during the game. With the wealth of experience, skill, energy and pace that these three players have, you would expect them to make all the difference for Ahli.

It is expected that Coton's players will come on with all guns blazing, and given that Ahli's defense stays solid in the opening minutes, Egyptians could be in for quite a treat.

Ahli's players are known for their remarkable ability to operate on the break, which is pretty much all they need to do in Garoua. The Egyptian defense should resort to killing out the game and bringing down the tempo in order to sink out Coton's offensive efforts and cause frustration among the host team.

This frustration will trigger chaos among the much less experienced Coton players, allowing Barakat and Sayed Moawad to make their trade mark runs down the flanks, supported by the energetic Hassan and Gilberto from the heart of midfield.

But it will be up to savior Mohamed Abou-Treika and the determined Flavio to finish off the Cameroonian dream with their clinical touches.

It is important that Ahli's players maintain their composure and stick to their respective roles in order to come out as winners from this encounter.

I do not believe there is a reason for Ahli fans to worry as only one goal will be sufficient to hand Ahli a much-deserved sixth title and if things do not go according to plan, we always now that Jose has something up his sleeve for such occasions.

Ahli's expected starting line-up: Amir Abdul-Hamid, Shadi Mohamed, Wael Gomaa, Ahmed Al-Sayed, Mohamed Barakat, Ahmed Hassan, Hossam Ashour, Gilberto, Sayed Moawad, Mohamed Abou-Treika and Flavio.

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