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Preview: Ahly's unheralded generation out to make history with 2nd CL crown
Published in Ahram Online on 16 - 07 - 2021

Ahly's unsung crop of players might lack the kind of big names who propelled the team to unprecedented glory more than a decade ago but they can make their own history with another Champions League triumph on Saturday.
The Red Devils meet South Africa's Kaizer Chiefs in the final of Africa's blue-riband club competition in Casablanca, targeting a second straight title after they memorably beat Cairo nemesis Zamalek 2-1 in last year's final.
Ahly, the record winners with nine titles under their belt, successfully defended their Champions League crown twice in the last 15 years, with the last time coming in 2013.
Back then, their squad boasted the likes of Mohamed Abou-Treika, who masterminded their 2013 triumph with some virtuoso displays in the twilight of his career, rock-solid defender Wael Gomaa and mercurial midfielder Mohamed Barakat.
The current roster is devoid of such high-profile footballers, with veteran winger Walid Soliman, who will miss the final through injury, the only attacker remaining from the so-called golden generation.
However, they still display the kind of efficient football their fans crave, with their direct play and pragmatic approach of coach Pitso Mosimane, who at times introduces an attractive brand of football and at times adopts cautious strategies, proving very successful.
"We do not have Abou-Treika and Barakat, these are the big names that [Ahly's former iconic boss] Manuel Jose had," Mosimane said last month.
"This generation is different and new, we are currently much smaller than them, every championship we achieve earns us confidence, but there is no comparison with the great golden generation."
Serial winner
The typical down-to-earth Mosimane might be lifting pressure off the shoulders of his players, but he has proven a serial winner since he took the reins in October last year, with Ahly sweeping to a remarkable treble last year and finishing third at the FIFA Club World Cup in February.
He has already become popular with Ahly's ever-demanding fans, who would expect their side to come on top against Kazier Chiefs, who are making their first ever appearance in the final.
The only time Ahly and Kaizer Chiefs met was in 2002 when the Cairo giants secured a comprehensive 4-1 victory in the African Super Cup at home, a game known for a goal then goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary scored from his own half.
Ahly must still be wary of Kaizer Chiefs, who eliminated the likes of Tanzania's Simba and Morocco's Wydad en route to the final, having showed defensive solidity and goal-poaching abilities.
"It's not about fear. It's about the reality and the respect we have to give to the opponent. They played good football in their own way and that helped them go through Wydad and Simba. Those are not small teams," Mosimane told the pre-match news conference.
"They are very strong on counter-attacks, set pieces, crosses and they have a lot of intelligent players.
"We will go to the final in the same way which helped us win last year. The same way that helped us reach the final this year and the same way which helped us win the CAF Super Cup. That's the only way we know."
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