Preview: holders Ahly face first stiff test in Egyptian league

Ahram Online, Tuesday 21 Oct 2014

Ahly last met Ismaily in the Egyptian Premier League in 2011 (Photo: Ahram Online archive)

Title holders Ahly will face their first stiff test of the Egyptian Premier League when they meet bitter rivals Ismaily in the first high-profile clash of this season's competition on Wednesday.

Ahly made a disappointing start to their league campaign after losing 2-1 to minnows Ragaa but they recovered in convincing fashion, crushing Ittihad El-Shorta 3-0, thanks in part to another lively display from in-form winger Walid Soliman.

They lie 15th in the 20-team table with three points but they still have three games in hand as they eye a ninth successive league title to maintain their supremacy of domestic competitions.

Although coastal side Ismaily won twice and drew as many games in their first four matches, they are third from bottom after having six points deducted for their failure to fulfill their financial obligations towards their former Nigerian striker John Owoeri.

Wednesday's match, which should have been played in Cairo, will take place in the Red Sea resort of El-Gouna instead.

The Egyptian Football Association decided that Ahly will not be play in any Suez Canal city this term to avoid possible confrontation with the fans of Port Said-based club Masry, who are incensed over being blamed for a football tragedy in the city in 2012 when more than 70 Ahly supporters died in crowd trouble.

"The Ahly players are buoyed by the win over El-Shorta," the club's football supervisor Alaa Abdel-Sadek told Reuters.

"The match against Ismaily is tough and we are aware of that but we are seeking to claim all three points."

Ahly welcome back Egypt's regular goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy, who missed the national team's two successive wins over Botswana as well as the Red Devils' victory over El-Shorta due to an injury.

Youngsters Karim Bambo and Ramadan Sobhi, who have been struggling to play on a regular basis since the arrival of coach Juan Garrido, were omitted from the squad.

Ismaily, who last met Ahly in 2011 after two successive league editions were called off, almost have a fully fit squad to choose from.

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