Al Ahly of Egypt coach Hossam El Badry hopes history repeats itself when they face hosts Esperance of Tunisia Saturday in a mega CAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg.
El Badry was in charge of the Cairo “Red Devils” when they shocked the Tunis “Blood and Gold” 2-1 in Tunisia after a drawn first leg to win the 2012 final.
Last weekend, Ahly led and trailed Esperance before recent Moroccan recruit Walid Azarou equalised to leave the tie delicately balanced at 2-2 on aggregate.
While the odds have shortened on an overall Esperance victory, El Badry was optimistic ahead of what is being labelled “the final before the final” given the status of the clubs.
Ahly are the most successful club in CAF competitions with 19 titles and Esperance have won five.
“Nothing has been decided,” stressed El Badry. “Our approach must be balanced.
“We cannot just defend and we dare not attack with abandon either. I trust my players and their capabilities.”
Victory for either side at the 60 000-seat Stade Olympique in Tunis secures a semifinal date with Etoile Sahel of Tunisia or Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya.
A 0-0 or 1-1 draw and Esperance qualify, another 2-2 deadlock takes the tie to penalties, and a stalemate involving six or more goals sends Ahly through.
Esperance have won three of four home matches en route to the last eight and drawn with title-holders Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
Record eight-time Champions League title-holders Ahly won only once on the road in four matches and failed to score in three of them.
Esperance boast a consistent scorer in six-goal Taha Yassine Khenissi while no one from Ahly has managed more than two.
Sundowns were the only first-leg winners, edging Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 near Pretoria through a goal from Ivorian Yannick Zakri.
The South Africans have been reportedly angered by “dirty tricks” since arriving in the north African kingdom with no training facilities provided and inadequate transport.
Sundowns officials took two days to secure a practice pitch and hired a bus rather than use what an official called an “old grey stinky one” offered by Wydad.
USM Alger of Algeria have scored 11 CAF goals at home this season and Ferroviario Beira of Mozambique have conceded 11 on the road.
Those statistics, coupled with 2015 runners-up USM forcing a 1-1 draw at Ferroviario last weekend, make the Algerians firm favourites to progress.
Etoile must do without Brazilian striker Diogo Acosta after he was red-carded in a 0-0 draw with Ahly Tripoli, who hosted the first leg in Egypt because of Libyan instability.
The Tunisians have been erratic at home, firing five goals past Ferroviario Beira but only drawing with Al Hilal of Sudan.
Ahly have been equally unpredictable on the road, crumbling to USM, holding 2016 runners-up Zamalek in Egypt, and scoring four goals against CAPS United in Zimbabwe.