Friday Jun 02, 2023. 12:53
Wydad Casablanca head coach Sven Vandenbroeck insists he’s not feeling pressure to repeat their heroics of 2022 against Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League final first leg at the Cairo International Stadium on Sunday.
Kick-off is at 8pm CAT (SA, GMT+2)
The two teams meet in the competition’s decider for the second year running as Wydad look to join an elite group by becoming only the fifth club to win back-to-back titles.
The Red Eagles just shade the head-to-head encounters with four wins to three, although the Red Castle have the edge in final appearances after emerging victorious in 2017 and 2022.
Vandenbroeck was only appointed to the helm a month ago but he’s already won the hearts of the club’s fans by guiding Wydad past favourites Mamelodi Sundowns on away goals in the semi-finals.
The Moroccan giants have won just one of their four games in the knockout stages, eliminating Simba on penalties in the quarter-finals following a 1-0 victory in the second leg after the Msimbazi Reds triumphed by the same scoreline in the first leg.
Vandenbroeck’s side were then held to a goalless draw by the Brazilians in Casablanca and they had to dig deep in Pretoria to secure a 2-2 aggregate scoreline.
The Belgian tactician is well aware that Egyptian titans will be looking to avenge last year’s disappointment, although he’s relishing the prospect of leading Wydad to a fourth continental crown.
“Ahly will be seeking revenge for last time. So, the most important thing for me is to remain calm and unified as a group. And I think individual solutions will play a key role in the confrontation,” he was quoted as saying by Moroccan website elbotola.
“I don’t feel a huge pressure. It is logical to play for all titles when you take the charge of a team that has a long history of winning trophies.”
No team has contested the final more than Al Ahly, who have lifted Africa’s most coveted club trophy a record 10 times, while they finished runners-up on five occasions.
They were denied a historic third consecutive title last season when the Red Castle ran out 2-0 victors at the Mohammed V Stadium in a controversial one-off final that was staged in Morocco despite pleas from the Red Eagles to play at a neutral venue.
Marcel Koller’s team beat ES Tunis both home and away in the last four to extend their unbeaten run to six matches since being thumped 5-2 by Sundowns in the group stages.
Ah Ahly are also undefeated against Wydad in Egypt, winning two and drawing three of their previous five clashes on the continent.
Koller was less than impressed with their performance against Ceramica Cleopatra on Monday when Hussein El Shahat’s 60th-minute goal secured a 1-0 win, with the Swiss coach stressing the importance of staying focused at all times in the final.
“The only good thing about the game against Ceramica is that we won but I am totally dissatisfied with the performance,” he said.
“After scoring, we lost our concentration and neglected defence and we could have been punished since they got several chances to even the score.
“I am saying it clearly: We need more determination and concentration in the Wydad game. If we repeat the same performance against Ceramica, we will not achieve our target.”