Defending champions Ahly will begin life under new coach Hossam El-Badry with a tough challenge when they take on rivals Ismaily on Saturday in their season debut.
The 56-year-old tactician was appointed in August following the departure of coach Martin Jol and is tasked with winning everything.
“Our goals have always been the same at Ahly: winning the titles of every competition we participate in. I have a great squad and I want the fans to support us at every step of the way,” he said at a press conference after his nomination.
Ahly are Egypt and Africa’s most decorated club and their fans are always hungry for titles. Although under Jol they regained the league title, Jol had to resign after reportedly receiving death threats as he couldn’t live up to their expectations following a cup final defeat and a group stage exit from the African Champions League.
El-Badry – who is back for a third stint at the Reds after guiding them to the league title in 2009 and the Champions League trophy in 2012 – hopes to enjoy a great start that could boost his season and give him much-needed credit with the fans.
He won’t enjoy a full squad on Saturday as key international defenders Ahmed Hegazy and Rami Rabia are out with injuries just like new striker Marwan Mohsen.
Skipper and midfield maestro Hossam Ghaly and tireless right-back Ahmed Fathi are suspended from the game after receiving red cards in the cup final.
El-Badry may have to rely on Nigerian striker Junior Ajayi and midfielder Akram Tawfiq – who were both brought in last month – to fill in the gaps in the squad.
On the other side, Ismaily will also want to test their artillery under new coach Emad Soliman. The Dervishes have been struggling over the past years with their financial issues and had their last taste of silverware over a decade ago when they won the league title in 2002.
Soliman is still relying on the experience of captain Hosni Abd-Rabbo, 31, to lead young stars such as Ibrahim Hassan and Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Banahene to create a shock start to the season.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)