Preview: Zamalek-Maqassa Egyptian league clash set to go ahead after controversy
Hatem Maher , Saturday 15 Apr 2017

Zamalek's outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour, in a trademark fiery rhetoric, persistently wanted Sunday's Egyptian Premier League clash against surprise package Maqassa to be rescheduled but his attempts proved fruitless.

The Cairo club are reeling from a run of four straight defeats that not only almost ended their hopes of challenging for the league title, but also cast doubts over their ability to finish as runners-up and qualify for the lucrative African Champions League.

With Maqassa proving the only genuine challengers to favourites Ahly on top, with seven points separating both sides, Zamalek's primary aim is to snap their losing run.

Mansour reportedly sought to give new coach Augusto Inacio some breathing space after his debut ended in a 2-0 defeat by Enppi, agreeing with Maqassa's chairman to postpone the match, citing Coptic Easter celebrations in Egypt.

The acid-tongued chairman said Egypt's interior ministry will be busy securing the Easter celebrations after twin church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria left over 40 dead last week.

However, the Egyptian Football Association's (EFA) competitions committee said both clubs did not have the authority to reschedule the match on their own, sparking an angry response from Mansour.

"The relevant authorities stressed that the match will go ahead on Sunday at 07:00 PM as scheduled at Cairo's Petrosport Stadium behind closed doors," the EFA said in a letter sent to Maqassa and Zamalek.

Zamalek's previous match against Maqassa was also clouded with controversy when the White Knights were denied a clear penalty, with Maqassa going on to win the match 1-0.

Mansour initially threatened that Zamalek would withdraw from the competition in protest at what he called "blatant refereeing", but eventually backtracked, drawing sarcastic comments from rival fans on social media who cited the chairman's repeated empty promises to pull out.

Ahly are away to Aswan later on Sunday and are expected to secure a sixth consecutive victory that would take them a step closer towards an impressive ninth title in 10 seasons.

The Red Devils' new faces, including winger Ahmed Hamoudi and Ivorian striker Souleymane Coulibaly, are quickly gelling into the team, giving coach Hossam El-Badri a welcome selection headache in the crucial part of the season.

Ahly are leading the table with 61 points, with second-placed Maqassa on 54 and fourth-placed Zamalek on 40 but with a game in hand.

(For more sportsnews andupdates, followAhramOnlineSportson Twitter at@AO_Sportsand onFacebookatAhramOnlineSports.)