Defending champions Ahly will have to make it without their enthusiastic supporters when they host promoted Dakhleya, an interior ministry club, in Wednesday’s Egyptian Premier League game.
The Red Devils were ordered to play behind closed doors for two consecutive home matches after their hardcore fans (the Ultras Ahlawy) defied an Egyptian Football Association warning, lighting fireworks in the draw with Gouna and victory over Ittihad of Alexandria.
The Ultras Ahlawy are consistently praised by Ahly’s board of directors, technical staff and players for creating a “feverish atmosphere” inside stadiums but came in for fierce criticism lately for the excessive use of fireworks.
The use of pyrotechnics has stirred hot debate in domestic football, with supporters of the likes of Ahly, Zamalek and Ismaily - the so-called big three - refusing to bow to pressure and abandon firecrackers.
However, the Ultras Ahlawy said they have no intention of causing any trouble when their team play Dakhleya, who lie second from bottom after gaining just one point from their first three games.
“We will not try to attend the Ahly-Dakhleya match. We are acting in the best interests of our club, we don’t want our team to lose points,” the group said on its page on social networking site Facebook.
Ahly, who are eyeing an eighth successive league triumph, have made a poor start to the season, drawing two of their first three games while playing with a 4-4-2 formation.
The stuttering form has prompted coach Manuel Jose to revert to a traditional 3-5-2 formation featuring a sweeper, a position which no longer exists in modern football.
However, the Portuguese tactician’s decision looked to have paid off against Ittihad, with Ahly claiming an easy 2-0 victory at the 86,000-seat Borg El-Arab Stadium, thanks to goals from new signing Abdallah El-Saied and striker Emad Meteb.
“That doesn’t mean we will play with a 3-5-2 formation in all matches. We look for the suitable strategy for every game. Every game is treated separately from the other,” Ahly’s football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz said.
Ahly will miss defender Mohamed Naguib, who has been a regular member of their starting line up since his summer arrival, after he picked up a groin injury that will rule him out of action for up to six weeks.
Defensive midfielder Mohamed Shawky, who was also injured against Ittihad, remains doubtful.
The Cairo giants top the league table with eight points, one ahead of arch-rivals Zamalek who have a game in hand.
In Wednesday’s other games, Ismaily, who have seven points, will be looking to maintain their recent revival when they face ENPPI.
The coastal club recovered from a slow start to the season to beat Dakhleya 2-1, thanks to an inspirational display from midfielder Hosni Abd-Rabou who is the league’s top scorer with six goals in three games.
Masry, whose previous game with Smouha in Port Saied was marred by crowd troubles, take on Ittihad El-Shorta away from home.