Ahly players fasting for Bucs clash

Orlando Pirates

Safa submitted a letter to CAF requesting that the match be moved to a neutral venue, because of the volatile political situation in Egypt, but the request was turned down.

Ahly also attempted to have the fixture altered, and were hoping to play in the capital, Cairo, at 10pm, after the fast ends.

But the only venues with adequate floodlights are in the major cities, where officials have banned all sport, and the Egyptian giants were forced to host Pirates at the Red Sea resort of Gouna, behind closed doors.

Kick-off is at 4.30pm.

“It’s going be extremely difficult,” Youssef tells CAF’s official website. “We’ll play in Gouna in a very hot weather and our players are fasting. But we have nothing to do but to respect the condition and play.

“I fully trust my players’ experience and how will they deal with the game. Our aim is the maximum points on our way to top our group and qualify to the semi-final.

“I told the players these circumstances are obligatory and we have to deal with it. I told them we had difficult conditions last year and yet we won the Champions League. So we have to work under any condition.”

Defending champions Ahly drew 1-1 away with their arch rivals Zamalek in Day 1, while Pirates played to a goalless with Congo’s AC Leopards at Orlando Stadium.

Youssef says his team has done well to prepare after their disappointing opening group stage result.

“After the Zamalek game we resumed our daily training and we had a friendly game to make sure all our players are ready,” he says. “All our players are focused on the game and our only goal is to win whatever the circumstances are. This is a very important game in our campaign.”

Strikers Emad Metaeb and Mohamed Nagy Gedo are injured and will be absent for the Egyptians.

“We’ll find a replacement for Metaeb and Gedo,” Youssef says. “We’ll have playmaker Ahmed Shokry back after serving a one match suspension against Zamalek. Waleed Suleimna has fully recovered and he’ll be ready, so is Abdullah El Said who received a minor knock during the friendly game but he’ll be ready.”

Youssef says his team respects Pirates, but adds that Ahly are quietly confident of a win.

“We’ll miss our supporters as the game is held behind closed doors, but we’ll do all our best to win.

“Orlando is a very good team. We respect them much and know they have some talented international players. But Ahly plays every game just to win.”

AC Leopards host Zamalek at Congo’s western city of Dolisie in Group A’s other match, to be held at the same time.