Preview: Ahly visit Etoile in top-of-table clash on back of first-team unrest

Omar Zaazou , Friday 7 Aug 2015

Ahly out to cement their position on top of Group A and boost their semi-final qualification chances in the Confederation Cup

File Photo: Abdallah El Said of Egypt's Al Ahly (2nd R) celebrates a goal with team mates during their CAF Champions League soccer match against Morocco's Moghreb Tetouan at Petro Sport stadium in Cairo, May 2, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Group A leaders Ahly resume their Confederation Cup campaign when they visit second-placed Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel at Stade Olympique de Sousse on Saturday, following a series of first-team troubles.

A training-ground spat a few days ago saw football director Wael Gomaa suspend and fine midfield duo Hossam Ghaly and Abdallah El-Saied, who were both left out of the trip to Sousse.

Gomaa’s disciplinary action did not signal the end of the matter though, with skipper Ghaly further escalating things by declaring his desire to leave his boyhood club.   

Ahly, however, made it clear that they have no intentions to let the 33-year-old captain go, as there were further disciplinary decisions – with ex- Ahly center-half Gomaa at the receiving end this time around.

An interview with an Egyptian publication landed Gomaa in hot water, having blasted Ghaly and El-Saied after the matter had been reportedly ‘contained’.

As a result, the former Egypt defender was ordered not to travel with the squad to Tunisia as well, amid rumors that his days at the Cairo giants are numbered although he apologised for his statements on Twitter.

Four summer-signings make the trip

It’s not all doom and gloom for Ahly though, with the reigning champions set to hand three summer-signings their first-team debut, having included foreign duo Malick Evouna and John Antwi and Saleh Gomaa in the squad.

Another summer-returnee is set to reclaim his right-back spot, after Ahmed Fathi rejoined Ahly following a one-year stint at Qatar’s Umm Salal.

“The decision to name the recently-joined quartet came only after making sure they are fit enough to play against Etoile,” Ahly boss Fathi Mabrouk told the club’s official website.

“Their inclusion is also intended to help us overcome the major absences in our squad.”

In addition to the suspended duo, full-back Bassem Ali has been omitted due to injury – increasing Fathi’s playing chances on the right flank.  

But Ahly will be hoping to avoid any problems in the holding midfielder role, with Hossam Ashour the only defensive-minded midfielder in the Reds’ 22-man fold.

Elsewhere, Ahly have an embarrassment of riches in their attacking department, which features five center-forwards including Emad Meteb, Amr Gamal and Ahmed Abdel-Zaher.

The absence of the banned El-Saied may be barely felt in Saturday’s game, with Walid Soliman, Moemen Zakareya, Ramadan Sobhi, Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’ – plus newly-signed Gomaa – ready to play.

Trezeguet’s inclusion came before Belgian giants Anderlecht have announced that they secured the Egyptian’s services on loan from Ahly on Thursday.

Ahly top the group with seven points from three matches, one point ahead of Etoile – with the North African rivals odds-on to make it to the competition’s semis.

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