Portuguese coach Manuel Jose will be in charge of Egyptian giants Al Ahly for the last time this weekend when they visit Angola for an CAF Confederation Cup game tie.
The setting for a fourth round, second leg fixture against Santos is ironic as Jose is moving to the oil-rich south-west Africa country, charged with the task of building the struggling 2010 CAF African Cup of Nations hosts into a force. Ahly won a play-off against Ismaili last Sunday to clinch a fifth Egyptian title in a row and give 63-year-old Jose his 21st success from two spells this decade with the Cairo 'Red Devils'.
And the Egyptians are well placed to make the group phase of the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup having built a 3-0 lead over international rookies Santos in Cairo two weeks ago. Midfield magician Mohamed Aboutraika was the first leg hero, opening the scoring and setting up another long-serving squad member striker Osama Hosny for a couple of early second half goals.
Jose does not talk to the Egyptian media because of a long-running feud so it was left to assistant Hossam al-Badry to warn supporters that the outcome in Angola was not a foregone conclusion. "You cannot take anything for granted in football. Who knows what could happen in the return match so we must be careful," the former Ahly defender told reporters.
Threat to Egyptian giants
Captain Shady Mohamed says fatigue could pose the biggest threat to Ahly as they seek a place in the eight-club mini-league phase of a competition modelled on the European UEFA Cup. "Suffering from fatigue these days is normal as we are not machines. We have been playing for the last five years and won numerous titles, but we are running out of gas," confessed the defender. "After defeating Ismaili I guess we have silenced all the doubters who were claiming that the Ahly team is nothing more than a bunch of ageing footballers," added the skipper.
Egypt could have three clubs among the last eight as paramilitary outfit Harras al-Hodoud and petroleum company club ENPPI go into home fixtures on level terms. Alexandria-based Harras held Al Ahly Tripoli goalless in Libya while Cairo side ENPPI came from behind twice in Abidjan to force a 2-2 draw with former African champions ASEC Mimosas of Côte d'Ivoire .
CS Sfaxien of Tunisia, seeking a record third consecutive title, are in trouble after a 2-0 away loss to Angolan military club Primerio Agosto, but captain Abdelkrim Nafti remains upbeat. "We paid the price for physical fatigue since I believe we have played more than 50 matches this season. However, this is not an excuse and I believe we can overcome the deficit," the playmaker told a Tunisian radio station.
Bayelsa United of Nigeria, Djoliba of Mali and Vita of Democratic Republic of Congo face the identical mission of overcoming a 3-1 loss when they host Kampala City Council of Uganda, Entente Setif of Algeria and Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon respectively. Stade Malien, the other Malian contenders, appear well positioned to advance after an Aboubacar Tambadou injury-time goal snatched a 1-1 draw at Moroccan club Al-Ittihad Khemisset.