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Preview: Ahly to clash with Ismaily, Zamalek to face Masry in crucial day for Egyptian League

A win for Ahly over Ismaily and a Zamalek-Masry draw would mean the Egyptian League title goes to the Reds

Omar Zaazou , Thursday 23 Jun 2016
Ahly
File photo of an Egyptian Premier League clash between Ahly and Ismaily (Ahram sport)
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In what could be the Egyptian League's decisive week, leaders Ahly will take on bitter rivals Ismaily at Cairo's Petrosport Stadium, while reigning champions and second-placed Zamalek take on Masry at Alexandria Stadium on Friday.

With only three games left, Ahly need a mere five points from their upcoming fixtures, including a last-day derby clash with arch-rivals Zamalek.

Despite trailing Ahly by five points, Zamalek will still be retaining hopes of seeing their rivals stumble once again against an Ismaily side keen on finishing third to seal its CAF Confederation Cup qualification.

The Ahly fans, on the other hand, fear an unlikely surprise in those coming few weeks – with their side's results not particularly encouraging of late.

After Ahly had been eight points clear of Zamalek just one week ago, a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Hossam Hassan's Masry meant the Cairo giants squandered three precious points in their pursuit of the domestic title.

The defeat was followed by another loss, this time on the African front, where they were edged out by Zambia's ZESCO 3-2 away from home in the Champions League group-stage opener, having put in another disappointing display.

The Ismaily-Ahly showdown was also preceded by some tensions regarding the venue of the game, with the coastal side initially refusing to play at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium; the venue determined by security officials.

After suggesting three other venues to host the game, including Ismailia, Suez and Cairo's Military Academy Stadium, it was finally agreed upon to stage the league fixture away from Alexandria – with Petrosport Stadium ultimately chosen.

In addition to their poor results of late and the pedigree of their opponent, Ahly will still have to overcome the crucial absence of some key players against Ismaily.

A collarbone injury to playmaker Abdallah El-Said seemed to have taken its toll on Ahly at ZESCO, with the ex-Ismaily midfielder initially declared out for around six weeks.

Robust hitman Malick Evouna will also sit out due to an ankle injury sustained in the defeat against Masry, meaning Ahly will miss his pace and direct runs towards goal.

Despite not being in-form of late, skipper Hossam Ghaly's absence due to automatic suspension will deprive Ahly of their deep-lying playmaker – with Amr El-Sulaya now set to deputise.

Moreover, striker Amr Gamal remains sidelined after undergoing a nose operation, with Ghanaian marksman John Antwi sure to lead the line.     

Zamalek need to win

Zamalek are hoping the aforementioned factors will adversely affect their rivals and diminish their chances of bouncing back from their recent defeats, and they still need to make sure they beat the resilient Masry.

The Whites, who are on a superb eight-match winning streak under manager Mohamed Helmi, cannot afford losing further points if they are to keep their title hopes alive.

Whether flamboyant playmaker Ayman Hefni and key centre-back Mohamed Koffi will be included in the squad remains to be seen, after the duo skipped training ahead of the trip to Nigeria's Enyimba.

Burkina Faso defender Koffi has gone AWOL in protest over some late dues, prompting the management to omit him from the 1-0 away win at Enyimba in the Champions League group-stage opener. 

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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