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Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Preview: Holders Ahly seek to dispel doubts in Egyptian league opener

Ahram Online , Wednesday 1 Aug 2018
File photo of an Egyptian Premier League game between Ahly and Ismaily (Ahram)
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Views: 2688

Holders Ahly will be seeking to dispel any doubts over their ability to win a fourth straight Egyptian Premier League title when they kick off the new campaign with a tough test against bitter foes Ismaily on Thursday.

Ahly, winners of 11 out of the previous 12 league editions, hardly face any competition to maintain their domestic supremacy but the rise of a new power in Pyramids FC, who splashed out huge sums of money on new recruits after being bought by a Saudi investor, could threaten their dominance.

The Red Devils have been uncharacteristically slow in the transfer window, making only several low-profile signings. Their only astute acquisition might be the signing of Malian central defender Salif Coulibaly, who impressed in his first two games with the Red Devils in the African Champions League.

They also received a huge blow ahead of their opening game against Ismaily after key Nigerian winger Junior Ajayi picked up a serious knee injury in a Champions League game that will rule him out for up to four months.

However, the team's passionate fans are counting on Ahly's pedigree and experience to wrap up a 41st league title despite what appears to be a lack of depth in their squad.

Ismaily are one of the traditional rivals of Ahly and are expected to prove a tough nut to crack in Thursday's tie. They finished runners-up to the Cairo giants last season.

"Ismaily is a big club that will only play to win against Ahly," their new coach Khaireddine Madhoui said on Tuesday.

"Facing Ahly in the opening match is useful as it will push the players to be in their top mental state. We have a plan to stop Ahly's danger as it's a strong team with good players," the Algerian boss added.

Ahly will have to do without Ajayi and two other key players in defensive midfielder Hossam Ashour and right-back Ahmed Fathi, who are injured.

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

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