Jose offers home truths

Manuel Jose believes that Al Ahly must overcome huge pressure this weekend when they host Coton Sport in the first leg of the CAF Champions League final.

"When we play at the Cairo Stadium my players are always under pressure from our supporters," admitted the 62-year-old Portuguese coach with a fondness for chewing gum Sir Alex Ferguson-style.

Jose, seeking a fourth Champions League crown with the Cairo 'Red Devils' in eight years, blamed nerves when Ahly struggled to overcome Nigerian visitors Enyimba 1-0 in the semi-finals two weeks ago.

"Away from home when Ahly are under no pressure, we perform well. We put on a good display when forcing a goalless draw against Enyimba in Aba despite playing on a terrible pitch," he continued.  "We will do our best to win the first leg in Cairo against Cotonsport to make our task of overcoming them easier. Ahly have the best footballers in Africa so we should go for a win whenever and wherever we play."

Chasing a record sixth Champions League title, Ahly defeated Platinum Stars of South Africa, Zamalek of Egypt, Dynamos of Zimbabwe and Enyimba of Nigeria at home and drew with ASEC Mimosas of Côte d'Ivoire en route to the final.

But some victory margins were narrower than expected with Ahly having two goals to spare over African rookies Platinum, but only one in the other three Cairo triumphs.  They were fortunate to overcome Dynamos with midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, the celebrated Ahly star, snatching the decisive goal in a 2-1 win four minutes into stoppage time.

In previous African campaigns, an early Ahly strike was often the signal for a goal avalanche, but this failed to materialise after Angolan striker Flavio Amado headed his team into a 26th-minute lead against Enyimba.

Jose, the most successful foreign coach of Ahly in their 102-year history, has come under fire from the Egyptian media for the failure of his star-studded squad to win more decisively.