CAF Champions League: Pressure is on for Mamelodi Sundowns and Al Ahly


Al Hilal Omdurman made it three CAF Champions League wins in a row when they beat Coton Sport 2-0 yesterday at Al Hilal Stadium in Sudan.

Goals from Ghanaian midfielder David Abagna in the 31st minute and Makabi Lilepo who converted from the penalty spot in the 83rd minute, saw Al Hilal climb to the summit of Group B with nine points from four matches.

Yesterday’s result has intensified the group, putting pressure on both Mamelodi Sundowns and Al Ahly to win on Saturday.

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Why Sundowns can’t afford to lose

Al Hilal’s win means Sundowns will have to beat Al Ahly at Loftus Stadium on Saturday to reclaim top spot or risk possible group stage elimination from the CafCL.

The Brazilians still have a tricky trip to Sudan to face Al Hilal, who have proven hard to beat at home, as they have shown by taking all six points in their home matches against Al Ahly and Coton Sport.

For Sundowns to go there looking for three points might prove to be a difficult exercise, especially with Al Hilal’s quarter-final hopes high, they would not want to lose at home.

For Al Ahly, a win against Downs on Saturday could be the turning point for them in the group.

Currently sitting third with four points from three matches, victory will move them to second spot, although they will be level on points with Sundowns at seven each.

But Al Ahly’s advantage will be their remaining opponents. They should have no problems disposing of Al Hilal at home and beating Coton Sport away in their last group match, which will mean they potentially can finish on 13 points, enough for them to top the group.

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If Downs lose against Al Ahly, the only three points they can hope for is from Coton Sport at home, which might not be enough to send them through to the quarter-finals should they also go on to lose against Al Hilal. A draw would keep the group in the balance and it would be very tight.

An interesting fact

Each time Al Ahly have found themselves with their backs against the wall, they have went on to win the CAF Champions League.

The Red Eagles found themselves in almost a similar situation in 2013, 2020, and 2021, where they were on the verge of an early exit, but managed to turn things around, ending up as champions, as emphasised by Al Ahly’s Director of Football, Sayed Abdelhafiz.

“It is an important win for the team. It was a difficult game because of our situation in the group but we achieved the three points and now we will focus on the second round of the group stage. Our last three successful campaigns in the CAF Champions League in 2013, 2020 and 2021 saw us suffering in the group stage. We will do everything to progress from the group,” he told the media as quoted by Al Ahly’s website after their 3-0 win against Coton Sport on Saturday, March 4.

What could work in Sundowns’ favour?

Sundowns have played hosts to Al Ahly five times, and they have never lost a game.

Three of their matches on South African soil have ended in draws, with the Brazilians winning the other two, including a convincing 5-0 victory on the sixth of April 2019. Going into Saturday’s game, Downs will be hoping their good home record against the Red Eagles continues.