APR vs Al Ahly 3:30pm
APR are faced with an unenviable task of trying to eliminate Africa’s record 8-time champions Al Ahly in the first round of Caf Champions League but interim coach Vincent Mashami is confident his young troops can win today’s first leg clash at Amahoro stadium.
Speaking to Saturday Sport yesterday ahead of probably the biggest game of football in the club’s history, Mashami admitted that though Al Ahly will start as favourities, APR have what it takes to defy the odds and dump the Egyptian league champions out of Africa’s biggest club competition.
“The mistake Al Ahly can’t afford to make is to think they are so big and that they have probably won the tie even before a ball is kicked, because we will go onto the field to win the game in-front of our fans,” Mashami warned.
He added, “Our first object will be not to concede a goal at home and then try to score an early goal to calm down any possible nerves. If we can score at least two goals it would put us in a good position going into the return leg in Egypt.”
“All matches at this stage are not easy so we will have to be very careful against the most successful team in the competition. They are the favourites and they will be motivated to win in Kigali,” former Isonga coach noted.
Al Ahly captain Hossam Ghaly also believes that it is wrong to refer to APR as a small team because they have done well in previous round against Liga Desportiva de Maputo despite being underdogs over the two-legged fixture.
“We are coming for a win, we will do all we can because it is an important game for us, people may say APR are underdogs but they are a good side and strong, it will be hard to beat them,” he noted.
The Egypt international added, “We talked as team to do our best to win the game and we are ready because we need to win the title for the ninth time. We need a strong start in this year’s competition.”
Al Ahly head coach Juan Carols Garrido brought a 20-man squad but Mohamed Nagy Gedo and Ahmed Abdul Zaher will miss the game due to injury.
The Cairo-based team, which arrived in Kigali on Wednesday, held two training sessions at Amahoro stadium on Thursday and Friday.
APR returned to continental competition after a year’s absence having represented Rwanda in the Champions League a record ten times since their inaugural appearance in 1997 with their best performance being a third round finish in the 2004 season.
In Africa, APR’s best achievement was a semi-final finish in the 2003 Caf Winners’ Cup under late Captain Jean Marie Ntagwabira.
However, the record 14-times league champions will be without the injured experienced midfielder Djamar Mwiseneza and goalkeeper Jean Claude Ndoli, who was ruled out for the season due to a knee injury.