Ahly will be hoping a backroom reshuffle will yield better displays as they face Smouha in a top-of-table Group A clash of the Egyptian Premier League in their first game under interim manager Fathi Mabrouk.
Mabrouk, who steered Ahly to the Egypt Cup title in his previous stint as a caretaker coach back in 2003, replaced Mohamed Youssef who was dismissed a few days after the team scraped into the African Confederation Cup group-stage at the expense of modest opponents Difaa Jadida of Morocco virtue of a stoppage-time goal from striker Ahmed Raouf.
Youssef, a rookie manager who helped Ahly win a second consecutive Champions League title last year, paid for a number of lackluster performances this season as he failed to cope with the retirement of talismanic playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika, whose absence deprived the club of much of its spark.
Although their results notably improved lately, the Red Devils remained unconvincing and the club’s new board of directors swiftly moved to dismiss Youssef after he criticized the administration for extending the contract of striker Emad Meteb without his consent.
Ahly, who were stunningly eliminated from the Champions League last 16, are in a comfortable position in the domestic competition though.
They are third in their group with 29 points, one behind Ittihad, who played two matches more, and three adrift of leaders and surprise package Smouha, who played a game more.
Should they beat the Alexandria-based club in Cairo on Saturday, they will edge closer to a place in the final four-team mini-league phase.
“I have to thank the former technical staff for helping Ahly in this tough period. This position is not unfamiliar to me, and I’m determined to steer the club beyond the upcoming tough games,” Mabrouk said on the club’s official website.
Smouha, who are managed by former Egypt assistant coach Hamada Sedki, have been inconsistent recently despite an impressive start to their league campaign.
At times they looked runaway leaders but they lost three times in their last six games, casting doubts over whether they can mount a serious challenge for a title that was won by a non-Cairo outfit just once in the past 23 years.
“I don’t think Ahly will be negatively affected by the change of coach. Mabrouk is a veteran manager who can help the club maintain its status,” Sedki said.
Ahly will miss midfielder Shehab Ahmed through injury and striker Raouf through suspension. Smouha have no injury worries ahead of the game.
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