There can be few more intriguing tournament openings than the "derby" which kicks off the FIFA Club World Championship at Tokyo stadium on Sunday. The clash between the African champions, Al Ahly, and Asia's best, Al Ittihad, has had media in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and throughout the Arab world presenting the contest as a final in itself.

And of the many stars on show in Japan on 11 December, Ahly's attacking midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika appears to be the one shining brightest as the big match approaches. Fresh from grabbing a hat-trick in his team's 10th straight victory in the Egyptian league, the 27-year-old chatted to

"With God's will we can win," says Aboutrika. "The first match will be decisive because our target is to reach the semi-finals at the very least, but it'll be quite a derby especially because Saudi football is so similar to the Egyptian game."

Plucked from obscurity by coach Manuel Jose almost two years ago while playing for second division side Tersana, the Egyptian has become one of the Portuguese's most reliable performers on their record-breaking undefeated run.

As determined as he is talented, Aboutrika personifies the winning attitude Jose searches for when choosing a player.

"Personally, I've never lost a game with Ahly to a foreign side and I believe the same goes for the majority of Ahly players as most of them have only joined the club over the last couple of years," he says responding to comments that Ittihad have the better head-to-head record of late. "Pressure is always there and it could even develop during the game itself depending on the circumstances and the score. What I am saying, though, is that we are neither scared of Ittihad Jeddah nor worried.   

"I know they are a good team and we plan to give them the respect they deserve but we won't overestimate them because I know for a fact that we are also a good team and on 11 December we will know which of the two sides is better."

No fear
Aboutrika, who scored the all-important first goal in the second leg of the African champions League final against Etoile Sahel, is confident enough to focus on a potential semi-final clash against Sao Paulo.

"Of course, anything that comes from Brazil - the land of football - must have its own magic but we will not be overwhelmed by their reputation. For us, it's a big dream to play them but as Mr. Manuel (coach) says you play football to please the fans, please yourself and you play to win. If you get scared of the big teams' names, then you have lost the battle already. The worst thing in football is to be afraid of the opponent."

As with all major tournaments, there are likely to be a swarm of scouts from European clubs in Japan looking for a player with something different to offer. Aboutrika admits he would be flattered by the interest.

"I'm representing my club Ahly, my country Egypt and my continent Africa," he adds with pride. "But I also want to show my best as I have received offers from European clubs.  And if Ahly approves next summer, I'll be looking to take one of them up."

Standing in his path though are the formidable Al Ittihad, a side capable of erasing the most vivid of dreams.