Egypt's Al Ahly stand on the brink of unparalleled dominance of the African game, and are set to rewrite the record books in the CAF Champions League this Sunday. The Cairo giants, already proclaimed as the African club of the 20th century, will win the CAF Champions League title for an unprecedented sixth time if they can hold onto a 2-0 lead in the second leg of the final.
Standing in their way are Coton Sport who have surprised all and sundry with their progression to the final and now seek to continue an astonishing giant-killing run with success in the continent's top club competition. At stake is the trophy, the $1m USD prize money and an even more lucrative trip to the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan next month.
Al Ahly scored two early goals in the first leg in Cairo earlier this month but squandered several further opportunities to take an even bigger lead into the second leg at the Stade Omnisports Roumde Adjia, a green oasis in the arid, dusty town of Garoua in northern Cameroon.
Coton Sport were far from overawed in the first leg and were more than willing to take the game to their opponents, but showed naivety in defence. As it stands, Coton Sport will have to claw back two goals against an Egyptian side that have a formidable reputation for being able to shut up shop.
"We gave Ahly too much respect in Cairo and defended poorly at set pieces," said Coton Sport captain Ahmadou Ngomna, who is ruled out by suspension. However, I'm sure we can overcome the deficit at home as the pressure will be off us."
Yet Al Ahly coach Manuel Jose believes that his side will be able to play a more relaxed game in Cameroon. "When we play at home we are always under pressure from the fans," he opined. "But we perform well away when under no pressure. Ahly have the best footballers in Africa and we should go for a win wherever we play."
Jose has displayed the many facets of his team's tactical capabilities in their march to the final. They are able, for example, to employ a three-man attack plus wing-backs when necessary or know how to effectively close off the game off in midfield with three players sitting back just in front of the back four. That is likely to be Jose's tactics for Sunday's second leg, just as he did in the first leg of the semi-final when Al Ahly gained a valuable goalless draw away at Enyimba of Nigeria en route to winning the second leg.
Al Ahly rested several key players in league action over the last fortnight, notably the tigerish Tunisian tackler Anis Boujelbene, whose workrate will likely see him earn a starting berth in Sunday's line-up. For many of the Al Ahly players, it is a further opportunity to continue their remarkable personal achievement with the likes of Mohamed Aboutrika, Wael Gomaa, Ahmed Fathi and captain Shady Mohamed seeking to add another CAF Champions League winners' medal to their two success in the past two CAF Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.
For one of the greats of the Egyptian game, Ahmed Hassan, it is a first chance to add a club honour to three CAF Africa Cup of Nations titles he has won with Egypt's Pharaohs in 1998, 2006 and 2008. Hassan signed for Al Ahly this June after a decade with the likes of Besiktas of Turkey and Belgium's Anderlecht and plays in his first continental club final.