PREVIEW: CAF Champions League Final

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Kaizer Chiefs will clash with Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League final tonight in Morocco (21:00).

The two giants of African football are the last teams standing in what has been a gruelling and busy pandemic affected season for everyone in the football fraternity. Indeed, Al Ahly’s season is still ongoing, with seven games for them to play in the Egyptian Premier League.

57 – This will be the 57th African Cup/Champions League final, but only the 3rd played off in a single match format.

The first final in 1965 and last season’s final were the other finals played over one leg.

The two teams have made it through the final under a very different set of expectations. For the Egyptians, they are always anticipated to go deep in the tournament, with the need to deliver the biggest prize an important annotation in a new coach’s contract. In fact, they have now reached the final in four of the last five editions of the tournament.

14 – Al Ahly are making their 14th African Cup/Champions League final appearance, more than any other African side in the history of the competition. No other side has more than 8 final appearances.

For Chiefs, the expectations have been more modest on the continent, especially when you consider that domestic success has been scarce ever since they won the 2014/15 league title. However, their arrival at the summit did not come by mistake and the players and staff fully deserve the recognition. But even the most staunch supporters would not have imagined this half-way through the season.

1 – Kaizer Chiefs will be appearing in their first ever African Cup/Champions League final, becoming the 50th different side to appear in the showpiece event.

The final will be Kaizer Chiefs’ 49th match of the season (all competitions) – the most for the club in a single season since 2001/02 when they also played 49 games.

Ironically, this was the season that featured their only other meeting with Al Ahly. Chiefs went on to lose 4-1 in the CAF Super Cup, with current assistant coach Arthur Zwane a part of that side.

Al Ahly were playing in the Super Cup because they had beaten Sundowns in the Champions League final the season before. The Red Devils also beat another South African side Orlando Pirates when they first met in the final in 2013, but Chiefs fans will be hoping it is not third time lucky for Al Ahly. However, the fact that a childhood Kaizer Chiefs fan is leading the opposition could throw an interesting twist to the narrative.

Pitso Mosimane’s team reached this final by winning eight of their matches played (D3 L1), and are currently unbeaten in 11 games. They also have the match-fitness advantage coming into the tie. That said, Chiefs will be confident in their defensive form leading up to the final.

11 – Altogether, Chiefs have kept 11 clean sheets from their 14 games in this season’s Champions League, more than any other side in the competition.

The bookies make Al Ahly favorites to deliver their La Decima of African Cup titles, having won the ninth one under Mosimane’s late tutelage last year. Winning back-to-back titles has been done only 5 times in the competition’s 56-year history, so it is no mean feat. However, Al Ahly have won back-to-back titles twice before in 2005/06 and 2012/13, more than any other African side.

By Opta Jabu