To say Al Ahly has hit a purple patch heading into the FIFA Club World Championship is a bit of an understatement.
The reigning African champion holds the record in world club soccer for consecutive undefeated matches at 55 — and counting.
Ahly dangerman Mohamed Abu Treka’s hat trick in a 3-1 league win over Arab Contractors on Nov. 27 saw the Egyptian club reach 55-games without loss, bettering the previous record of 54 games jointly held by Brazilian team Santos and Uruguayans Penarol.
Ahly’s run of form stretches back to June 2004, but the Cairo-based side faces a tough task at the Club World Championship if it is going to keep the winning streak going.
The Egyptians take on Asian champion Al Ittihad in the tournament’s opening game on Sunday, Dec. 11, at Tokyo’s National Stadium.
If it beats the Saudi side, Ahly faces South American champion Sao Paulo in the semifinals.
But confidence among the Al Ahly delegation was sky high at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, with coach Manuel Jose sure his side can extend the run to at least 56.
“Our expectations are we are going to win the next match and then we’ll see,” he said. “We know this team (Al Ittihad), we are neighbors, we’ve seen them, they’ve seen us and we have a strategy for this match.
“We have a secret — we play a risk system, 3-4-3, and we play to win all matches against all.
“We are going to do the best to win the match,” he said.
Al Ahly’s vice president Mahmoud El-Khatib was in a more bullish mood. He is convinced his side — crowned African Club of the Century by the African soccer federation in 2000 — has what it takes to go all the way.
“We are very eager to to win this championship,” the former club captain and striker said. “We are going to show you very good football and we are very confident in ourselves as usual and we will show you this confidence in the games.
“We have ambitions to rewrite the future of soccer in Egypt,” he said.
The game against Al Ittihad will have a derby edge to it, with the Saudi-based side having had the better of things in recent encounters over its Arab neighbor.
Coach Jose’s only concern, though, is whether his players can recover from the effects of jet lag in time.
“You can see the players and their faces — they are very tired,” he said.
The FIFA Club World Championship runs from Sunday, Dec. 11 to Sunday, Dec. 18.
As well as Sao Paulo and Al Ittihad, the other three teams competing alongside Al Ahly are European club champion Liverpool, Central American champion Deportivo Saprissa and Oceania club champion Sydney FC.
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