Highly-rated managers Hossam Hassan and Talaat Youssef come face to face in the Egyptian Premier League on Thursday, but they are also likely to engage in an off-field competition for the national team’s vacant managerial seat.
Zamalek’s Hassan and Ittihad El-Shorta’s Youssef insist they are solely focusing on the league tasks ahead of them, but the notion of taking up Egypt’s hot seat is likely to cross their minds.
Egypt is looking for a new manager to succeed Hassan Shehata, who resigned earlier this week following the disappointing 0-0 draw at home to South Africa. The match all but ended the Pharaohs’ hopes of qualifying for next year’s African Cup of Nations.
Youssef has emerged as a leading candidate to replace Shehata, who is arguably the best coach in Egypt’s history, after making a fine impact with modest club El-Shorta. The police owned club impressively stands fifth in the league table despite the lack of high-profile players in their squad.
“Nobody has called me yet, but I am only focused on my team’s important clash on Thursday against Zamalek,” the calm-mannered and soft-spoken Youssef told Egyptian media.
Egypt’s all-time leading scorer Hassan also remained tight-lipped over the prospect of managing the national team, saying he was concentrating entirely on helping Zamalek end their seven-year wait for the league title.
No room for error
With arch-rivals Ahly breathing down their neck, Zamalek have no room for error if they are to maintain their position on top of the league table.
Zamalek’s stunning 1-0 defeat to Maqassa in their last match before the league break helped Ahly go level on points with them although the White Knights still boast a superior goal difference.
They are likely to face a stern test against an in-form El-Shorta side who are known for their resolute defensive displays.
“The team’s international players have already closed the chapter on the national team’s elimination. We are now focusing on the league game against El-Shorta,” Zamalek midfielder Ibrahim Salah said on the club’s official website.
“We will not be affected by Egypt’s defeat. We just want to aim to win our remaining league games and clinch the title.”
Zamalek will have to do without several regular players including striker Amr Zaki, central defender Amr El-Safty, versatile midfielder Omar Gaber and right-back Hazem Emam who are all sideline with injuries.