Ahly's rookie coach Mohamed Youssef, burdened with the task of succeeding resigned manager Hossam El-Badry, will have a chance to lift his side to the Egyptian Premier League's final phase with four games to spare if they beat Haras El-Hodoud on Sunday.
Youssef was the assistant of El-Badry before the latter stepped down in an acrimonious manner, incurring the wrath of Ahly who labelled his behaviour as "irresponsible".
El-Badry hit back, accusing Ahly's board of not doing enough to support him but Egypt's most successful club are looking to avoid any distractions as they bid to win the Premier League for the eighth successive time.
Youssef, a former Ahly defender who made his name in the 1990s, is a novice coach who will have everything to prove as he seeks to fill the void left by El-Badry, who led the Red Devils to a record-extending seventh African Champions League title last year despite numerous obstacles.
Ahly claimed a 2-1 victory over Bani Suef Telephones last week to give Youssef a winning start but still looked lethargic, struggling for the creativity they have missed since the January departure of Mohamed Abou-Treika to Emirati club Bani Yas on a six-month loan deal.
A win over El-Hodoud, whose hopes of finishing as runners up have faded after a recent poor run, will give Ahly an unassailable 13-point lead over third-placed Smouha with four matches to go.
ENPPI, whose coach Tarek El-Ashry is linked with a summer move to Ahly, look well-placed to occupy the second qualification berth as they have 23 points from 12 matches.
The top two in Groups A and B will reach the final round, where a mini-league with only home fixtures will be held to determine the champion.
Ahly will be looking to avenge the stunning 3-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of El-Hodoud in February, which marked the second of two losses this term.
They will miss long-term absentee Hossam Ghaly and defender Sherif Abdel-Fadil, who is yet to recover from injury. Veteran winger Mohamed Barakat is also out due to flu.
However, they welcome back influential defensive midfielder Hossam Ashour, who missed the win over Bani Suef Telephones due to automatic suspension.
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