There were eight, and now there are just two. Three-time African Champions Wydad Athletic Club take on South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns at the Mohamed V Complex in Casablanca Sunday night in the first installment of the final of the inaugural edition of the African Football League.
A rigorous journey for both sides has seen them fly all the way into the final, and the two giants of African football have a chance to sketch themselves in the books of history.
Road to the final
Wydad were paired with Nigeria’s Enyimba in the quarter finals, and they showed their class, edging them 1-0 in the first leg away from home and completing it with a well worked 3-0 victory at home in the return tie.
They faced a tougher assignment in the semis where they edged out North African rivals Esperance du Tunis 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw on aggregate. They won the first leg 1-0 in Casablanca, and lost by a similar margin in the return fixture in Rades, to force the game to spot kicks.
Sundowns started off the competition against Angola’s Petro de Luanda, winning 2-0 in the first leg played away from home. In Pretoria, they held on for a 0-0 draw in a match where they had to play most of it with 10 men.
In the semis, they replicated almost the same script against record African champions Al Ahly. They won the first leg played at home 1-0, before forcing a 0-0 draw in the return fixture in Cairo.
What to expect in the final
With a USD4mn cash prize at stake, both teams come into the fixture ready for battle. “It is written in the stars!’, Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena told his players after the final against Ahly in Cairo in a now viral video across social media.
With only one Continental title, the 2016 Champions League in their wraps, Masandawana want to pick yet another diadem, and the AFL trophy is one they are keen on bagging.
Wydad lost last season’s Champions League final to Ahly, and coach Adil Ramzi is keen to see his side make amends, with a historic AFL victory.
Playing at home in the first leg, the Red Castle is keen to ensure they pick a result that will put less pressure on them when they play in the return tie in Pretoria on November 12.
Also, Wydad will be playing with massive push of emotion, as they have already said they are dedicating their duel to their departed player Ousaama Falouh who sadly passed away this week.
Head to head record
There have been 12 recent matches played between these two sides, with Wydad tipping the balances by a margin, having won four while Sundowns have three wins, with the rest of the matches ending in draws.
Their last meeting was in May this year, in the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League. They drew 0-0 in the first leg in Casablanca, before a 2-2 draw in Pretoria eliminated Sundowns on the away goal rule.
The last two visits by Sundowns in Casablanca have resulted in 0-0 draws. Sundowns have never won away to Wydad, while all four of Wydad’s wins have come on their home turf.