The Total CAF Champions League 2017 enters its quarterfinal stage, with the all North African clash between former champions’ Al Ahly of Egypt and Esperance of Tunisia the pick of the pack.
Cairo giants Ahly entertain old foes Esperance with the first leg due for today at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria, with the reverse leg scheduled for seven days later at the Rades Olympic stadium near the Tunisian capital, Tunis.
With ten titles between the two sides made up of eight for record winners Ahly and two for the Esperance; it’s a highly anticipated game between familiar foes, with 14 previous meetings at the continental level between 1990 and 2015. All but two of the past clashes between the rivals were in the premier continental club championship.
The duo first met in the then African Cup of Champions Clubs (now CAF Champions League) at the 1/8th round in 1990. After two barren draws Esperance won via penalties to progress.
The second meeting came 11-years later at the last four of the 2001 CAF Champions League. The tie ended in a stalemate again but Ahly had the upper hand on away goals after a 1-1 tie on aggregate, going on to lift the title after beating Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa 4-1 on aggregate in the final.
In 2007, they renewed their rivalry at the group stage, with each side winning at home; 3-0 for Ahly and 1-0 for Esperance. The rivals crossed each other path yet another time in 2010 at the semis, and Esperance prevailed on away goals after a 2-2 tie.
Ahly and Esperance were paired in the same group for the 2011 edition. Esperance won 1-0 at home, followed by a 1-1 draw in Cairo in a year that the “Blood and Gold” club went on to win their second title in the history of the premier continental club championship.
The meeting which has now become a regular fixture on the African football calendar saw both sides reach the final in 2012. After a 1-1 draw in Alexandria, Ahly defied the odds to win 2-1 at Rades and claim their seventh title.
The last encounter between the North African giants was in 2015 when they met at the CAF Confederation Cup group stage. Ahly won both legs; 3-0 in Suez and 1-0 at Rades.
Of the 14 meetings, Ahly has emerged victors on five occasions, three for Esperance with six meetings failing to produce a winner. Ahly has scored 14 goals compared to Esperance’s eight.
Ahly’s 19 African club titles and Esperance’s five makes the fixture one of the most sought after especially with a place at the last four at stake in the race for the 2 500,00 US Dollars prize-money and the ticket to represent Africa at the Fifa Club World Cup in United Arab Emirates in December.
“We are ready,” Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry told CAFOnline.com.
“We want to secure a convincing win in Alexandria that will help us in the reverse leg. But we have to know that the first leg isn’t decisive. In the 2012 final, we had a draw here and everyone thought that we were out, and then we won in Tunis,” added ElBadry who led the Red Devils to continental glory five years ago.