Football writer Eshlin Vedan take a look at three players from each side who will be key in Saturday evening’s Champions League final between Kaizer Chiefs and Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly.
DURBAN – While all players from both sides will need to do their part, there will naturally be some who are more capable of churning out match-winning displays on either side than others.
The following are three players from each side that will need to be on their toes if their team is to prevail:
For Kaizer Chiefs
Bruce Bvuma/Daniel Akpeyi
Bvuma was the standout performer for his club in their shock 1-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg away win over Wydad AC. His several saves virtually won the game for the South African side as he pulled off heroics in spite of his goal being bombarded.
Similarly, Akpeyi kept a clean sheet in the second leg at home.
On paper, Al Ahly are the favourites to win this game and are a stronger side. There is a chance that the goalkeeper selected on the day may once again be bombarded in this game and one of the two net-minders will have to be on his toes to fend off the threat.
The 31-year-old will be expected to marshal the defence for Chiefs. Ideally, Chiefs should try to ensure that their goal is not bombarded as it was in the semi-final first leg against Wydad.
They need a healthy share of possession and need to match their opponents on a like for like basis in the game.
When on song, Mathoho is one of the best game readers in the Chiefs team.
His analytical ability will be needed for Chiefs to snuff out attacks from Pitso Mosimane’s side and keep the likes of Mohamed Sherif, Marwan Mohsen and Aliou Dieng at bay.
Not only is the Serb the most clinical finisher in the Chiefs first team but he will not hesitate to show no respect to the Al Ahly defenders. Due to their superior record in continental football, it’s unlikely that Al Ahly will be showing Chiefs much respect as much as Mosimane will try to play mind games and say otherwise. Nurkovic is the most likely man to have opportunities close to goal for Chiefs. If he is on song, Amakhosi might be able to score.
For Al Ahly
It’s just a matter of time before the striker finds himself playing in Europe, such is his quality. Sherif has been in excellent form for Ahly this season, scoring 15 league goals for his side so far. He will test the Chiefs goal tonight. He is likely to lead the line for Mosimane’s charges. There is little doubt that Mosimane would have told him how to exploit Chiefs defensive line which several teams have done this season.
The 28-year-old may not be a prolific scorer but he plays a vital role for Ahly as he is the anchor between defence and attack, ensuring that the Egyptian giants are able to recycle possession healthily. If there is one player Chiefs fans should be hoping has a bad game in the final, it is Rabia. If that happens, the fluency of Ahly’s play will be exploited, creating space that can be exploited by Chiefs to launch attacks from midfield.
The 27-year-old defender is at the prime of his powers and his duty will be to snuff out the Chiefs attacks and clear any threat on his goal. If he is in form, Chiefs are going to have a hard time creating opportunities and finding the back of the net.