Egypt’s Ahly are gearing up to resume their campaign to retain the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Confederation Cup in the face of a deep injury crisis.
The Cairo club will travel to Suez on Friday a day ahead of hosting Malian side Stade Malien in this year’s final group stage match.
Manager Fathi Mabrouk will welcome back eight Egyptian international players after their trip to Chad where they won 5-1 on Sunday in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The Pharaohs players due to rejoin Ahly’s training session on Tuesday are: goalkeeper Shefif Ekrami; defenders Saad Samir, Rami Rabia and Ahmed Hegazy; midfielders Hussein El-Sayed, Moamen Zakaria and Ramadan Sobhi; striker Amr Gamal.
64-year-old tactician Mabrouk will hold a press conference on Friday in Suez as required by CAF regulations.
Ahly injuries make headlines
File Photo: Egypt's Al-Ahly players take part during a training session, February 19, 2015 (Reuters)
Ahly’s club doctor Khaled Mahmoud has been filling newspaper pages with quotes about exhausted players returning from Chad and other players suffering a range of injuries.
"Midfielder Saleh Gomaa and defender Saad Samir are undergoing medical scans and examinations to determine the seriousness of their injuries and their availability for the game," the doctor said on Sunday on the club website.
Gomaa, 22, is suffering from a groin strain while Samir, 26, was rested by Pharaohs coach Hector Cuper amid concerns of him aggravating an injury he sustained in Egypt's recent training camp.
Veteran midfielder Hossam Ghaly, who skipped Sunday's training session to rest his injured thigh, will also undergo tests ahead of a decision about his involvement against the Malians.
Meanwhile Ghanaian striker John Antwi will still be sidelined by the foot injury he picked in the easy 1-0 away win against Esperance on 21 August.
But winger Bassem Ali is available to play in Suez after he recovered from a groin injury.
Group top-spot is the target
Having already qualified for the semi-final, Ahly are bidding to finish top of Group A.
There are two groups of four teams in the Confederation Cup. The winners of Group A will play the runners-up of Group B in the semi-finals and vice-versa.
In Group A Ahly and Étoile Sportive du Sahel have both collected 10 points thus far, five more than third-placed Stade Malien who are out of the competition and may struggle to motivate themselves for the match with Ahly.
Although fourth-placed Esperance have earned only three points, they are expected to give their fellow Tunisians Étoile Sportive du Sahel a tough game when they on Saturday.
Ahly's rivals Zamalek have also already qualified for the Confederation Cup semi-finals and are looking top Group B by beating South African side Orlando Pirates on Sunday.
Zamalek and Orlando Pirates are both on 12 points.
In Group B the Congolese club AC Leopards de Dolisie are playing Tunisians Club Sportif Sfaxien in a dead rubber, with both teams out of the competition.
The two Cairo clubs could meet in the semi-finals if only one of them wins their group. Otherwise a heated final could be on the cards.
Ahly and Zamalek are already playing two semi-finals in the domestic Egypt Cup, against Petroject and Smouha respectively, meaning a Cairo derby final is already possible.
The match will take place in Suez due to security concerns about holding the match in Ahly’s stadium Cairo. The match will still be played behind closed doors, as most matches have been in Egypt since the Port Said disaster of February 2012.
Ahly hold a record eight CAF Champions League trophies but have gone out at the group stage and dropped into the CAF Confederation Cup two years in a row.
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