Preview: Ahly in tough mission against rivals Masry in Sharm El-Shiekh

Eslam Omar , Sunday 5 Jul 2015

Ahly is to face Masry in Sharm El-Sheikh behind closed doors, as the first regular league season since the 2012 Port Said disaster draws near to a close

Ahly v Masry
Masry's Ahmed Samir (L) fights for the ball against Ahly's Hussein Sayed during their Egyptian Premier League soccer match at El-Gouna stadium in Hurghada January 10, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Ahly will be tested against rivals Masry of Port Said Monday in a rescheduled Egyptian Premier League showdown as they seek to keep alive their slim hopes of winning the title.

The anticipated clash will be held behind closed doors in Sharm El-Shiekh Stadium, 500 kilometres from the capital Cairo, due to security concerns. It will be the second meeting between both sides since the 2012 infamous Port Said disaster which left over 70 Ahly fans  dead. 

The title holders, who are bidding for their ninth successive trophy, are playing the coastal rivals, coached by former Ahly star Mokhtar Mokhtar, in a decisive around, as there is no option for Ahly but to win.

With a full six points separating Ahly from league leaders Zamalek, who still have a game in hand, Ahly are second in the table with 71 points with four games remaining in the first regular league season since Port Said stadium disaster.

On 1 February 2012, Egypt's worst football incident occurred right after the final whistle of a league game between Ahly and Masry when the Port Said crowd invaded the pitch attacking rival fans. The deadly clashes left 72 Ahly fans dead and scores injured.

Two successive leagues were canceled since with the third held in a two-group format behind closed doors, in which Ahly and Masry were put in two separate groups.

The pair met once after the massacre in January 2015, during the first round of the current season in the calm Red Sea resort of El-Gouna, also behind closed doors. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.

"Ahly-Masry games are always tough and I hope it ends well without refereeing mistakes," Ahly football director Wael Gomaa told the club website.

Midfielder Hossam Ghaly will miss the game due to suspension as he was shown his third yellow card during Thursday's 3-1 victory over Wadi Degla, while Nigerian striker Peter Ebe and defender Sherif Hazem were excluded from the Sharm El-Shiekh trip due to injury.

"Sharm El-Shiekh Stadium is good and I checked it myself," Gomaa reveled after a quick trip to the Southern Sinai coastal city.

Sharm El-Shiekh is located a long way from the ongoing insurgency in North Sinai where the Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province launched simultaneous attacks on security sites last Wednesday morning, the largest attack in the restive peninsula in years, leaving 21 army soldiers and hundreds of militants dead.

The Egyptian Football Association is reported to be planning to hold the Ahly-Zamalek match, scheduled for 21 July, in the same arena.

Zamalek are also playing an important game against Ismaily at the same time Monday. With a game in hand, Zamalek are closing in on their first league trophy since 2004.

After this domestic round, the two Cairo giants will fly this weekend for the African Confederation Cup away group stage rounds, with Zamalek playing South African Orlando Pirates Saturday, one day before Ahly meet Stade Malien in Mali.

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