A new Egyptian Premier League season kicked off on Friday, with domestic clubs likely to bear the brunt of another hectic schedule this time around following last season’s 10-month-long campaign.
With Dakhleya hosting Petrojet and newcomers Ragaa visiting Arab Contractors, the 2017-18 season started on Friday, with Egypt’s Cairo giants Zamalek and Ahly playing on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
The top duo, however, are not likely to be given respite this season, with the EFA Competitions’ Committee chief Amer Hussein stating that the competition’s final matchday will be on 20 May, less than a month before the FIFA World Cup inaugural match.
“The league will end on 20 May because of the World Cup,” Hussein, who was accused last season of being unable to properly manage the fixture dates, told satellite channel ON Sport.
“As a result, teams will be forced to play every three days. Should Ahly reach the Club World Cup, they could have up to nine games postponed. We’ve kept this into consideration.”
Defending champions Ahly are the only Egyptian side vying in the CAF Champions League, whose winner qualifies for the Club World Cup, which takes place in December.
Domestic clubs have long complained of the league’s prolonged schedule last season, with Wadi Degla manager Mido particularly involved in an infamous row with Hussein.
And with the Egypt national team looking closer than ever to reach next year’s World Cup finals in Russia as they currently top their qualifying group, a host of regulars have seen a slip in their form, with exhaustion blamed for some erratic displays.
The result was a disappointing 1-0 defeat for Egypt by minnows Uganda in Kampala earlier this month, before the Pharaohs recovered to beat them with the same scoreline following an uninspiring display at Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab Stadium a few days later.
Key duo Abdallah El-Said and Tarek Hamed are among those who looked majorly affected, with manager Hector Cuper criticized for not giving the energy-sapped duo some rest before the start of the season.
With Ahly having already qualified for the Champions League knock-out stage, and with Zamalek taking part in next season’s CAF Confederation Cup, it remains to be seen how their international players would be able to cope.
All eyes will be on a new-look Zamalek side who visit El-Entag El-Harby at Cairo's El-Salam Stadium on Saturday.
Having failed to win a single title last season, finishing third in the league, the Zamalek board was keen to bolster the team with a host of new signings more than ever.
The result was a total of 15 players signed by Zamalek in the close season, in addition to another five who returned following loan stints at other clubs.
Most notable was the signing of foreign forwards Kabongo Kasongo, Benjamin Acheampong and Razack Cisse, alongside midfielders Ahmed Daouda, Ahmed Magdi, Ahmed ‘Kabroria’ and Salah Ashour.
The Zamalek fans will also be keen to see what changes newly-appointed manager Nebosja Jovovic would introduce in their team’s style of play, even though the Montenegrin boss has taken charge of the first training just less than a week ago.
And with the five-time African champions enjoying an abundance of players in every position now, the club’s supporters would be interested to see how their team would now line up against Entag, as they bid to return to the winning podium this season.
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