Saturday, Feb. 4 | 12:00 ET – 9:00 PT USA-CAN | 19:00 Cairo Local Time
Grand Stade de Tanger | Tangier, Morocco
African giants, Al Ahly aims to march on past US side Seattle Sounders, CONCACAF champions, in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup on Saturday in Morocco’s Grand Stade de Tange.
African Club of the century: Al Ahly
Al Ahly comfortably dispatched New Zealand’s Auckland City by a 3-0 scoreline. The Oceanic powerhouse was no match for the Cairo-based outfit in the First Round matchup.
That result seemed likely given Al Ahly’s longstanding success. They are 42-time Egyptian Premier League winners, have won 10 CAF (Africa) Champions League titles, and are three-time FIFA Club World Cup third-place finishers (as recently as 2020 & 2021).
“We will face a different opponent in a top performance and we have to prepare well for the game,” Ahly football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz told the club’s TV channel early on Friday.
“The Seattle Sounders are playing in the Latin school style. They have talented players in their squad so the game is expected to be difficult,” Ahly coach Marcel Koller told the pre-game press conference on Friday, referring to the fast-paced style of football associated with South American teams such as Brazil and Argentina.
“Every new game is the most important game,” Koller said as he likes to remind his players before every game.
Marcel Koller’s men have only conceded in one encounter this year and are unbeaten since losing 2-0 in the CAF Champions League Final versus Wydad AC last May (2022).
They have not lost a second-round fixture at this tournament since 2013, failing to concede a goal versus Al-Duhail in 2020 (1-0), while also posting a clean sheet a year ago in this round against Monterrey (1-0).
For the moment, they look to be well on their way to claiming their first Premier League title since 2019-20, sitting in first with 37 points after 15 matches, the only team in the Egyptian top flight who have yet to lose this season.
CCL winners Seattle Sounders
Back in May 2022, Seattle achieved continental glory by becoming the league’s first modern-day CCL winner – beating Liga MX’s Pumas 5-2 on aggregate before nearly 69,000 fans (competition record).
Seattle, beyond climbing the regional mountaintop so many other MLS teams stumbled at, knew a ticket to this year’s Club World Cup awaited. And now it’s about making this North African occasion a memorable one, even if Seattle are coming off a month-long preseason camp and won’t start their 2023 league campaign until Feb. 26.
The Sounders, on paper, have one of MLS’s strongest lineups: club captain Nicolás Lodeiro and striker Raúl Ruidíaz remain as centerpieces, goalkeeper Stefan Frei is as battle-tested as they come, midfielder João Paulo is back from a torn ACL he suffered in last year’s CCL Final, and four players – midfielder Cristian Roldan (US), forward Jordan Morris (US) and defenders Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) and Nouhou (Cameroon) – were at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Don’t forget about midfielder Albert Rusnák, either, their third DP alongside Lodeiro and Ruidiaz.
Seattle Sounders possible starting lineup:
Frei; Tolo, Gomez, Arreaga, A. Roldan; Rusnak, Rowe; Chu, Lodeiro, C. Roldan; Ruidiaz
Al Ahly possible starting lineup:
El Shenawy; Hany, Metwalli, Abdelmonem, Maaloul; Dieng; El Shahat, Afsha, Abdel Kader; Sherif, Tau
FT: Seattle Sounders 0-1 Al Ahly | FIFA Club World Cup 2023