Hossam El-Badry starts his second reign as Ahly’s coach on Sunday when the team host TP Mazembe of the DR Congo in their opening African Champions League Group B game.
Manuel Jose’s last match in charge of the Red Devils saw them scrape into the competition’s group stage with a nervy 3-2 home victory over Stade Malien, thanks to a hat-trick from inspirational playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika.
The Portuguese, a cult figure among Ahly’s faithful, then opted to end his third spell with the team, citing the Egyptian football stoppage which left him with little work to do amid uncertainty over whether domestic activities will be resumed any time soon.
His departure paved the way for the return of his former assistant El-Badry, under whom Ahly won the Egyptian Premier League title in the summer of 2010 before reaching the Champions League semi-final few months later, only to be knocked out by Tunisia’s Esperance.
He will be hoping to enjoy better fortune this time around as Ahly, the record Champions League winners with six titles under their belt, host four-time champions Mazembe at Cairo’s Military Academy Stadium behind closed doors.
The Red Devils will have to do without their enthusiastic supporters due to a crowd ban, which has been in place since February’s Port Said disaster that led to the cancellation of the Premier League.
“I really wish that our supporters would attend the game, especially seeing that things are getting settled in Egypt with the new president now elected,” El-Badry said in an interview with the CAF’s official website.
“I hope our fans would be there behind us in the coming important and decisive games because they motivate us well. I wish this turns out to be our last game behind closed doors.”
Ahly’s squad includes new signing Oussou Konan of the Ivory Coast, who joined from fellow Premier League side Maqassa. Right-back Ahmed Fathi also shrugged off an injury in time to make the roster.
However, they will miss defensive midfielder Mohamed Shawky due to an injury, the club said on their website.
“It's going to be a very difficult one. Mazembe is a very tough team and have a good reputation on the continent. On the other hand Ahly is still in the pre season preparations' phase and the players still to gain their full physical and technical fitness yet,” El-Badry said.
“It's tricky to kick off the campaign with such a difficult game, especially that our players lack local competitive football since the suspension of domestic football activities.”
Zamalek, Ahly’s arch-rivals, slumped to a late 3-2 defeat at Ghana’s Chelsea in the opening Group B game on Saturday.
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