Ahly eye seventh consecutive title in penultimate round

Hatem Maher, Wednesday 6 Jul 2011

Defending champions Ahly will have a chance to officially secure the Egyptian Premier League title when they face Arab Contractors on Thursday

Ahly vs Moqawleen
(Photo by Al-Ahram)

Ahly are in the mood to celebrate another Egyptian Premier League triumph as they face already-relegated Arab Contractors in the competition’s penultimate round on Thursday.

Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, who took over at Ahly for a third spell last January, masterminded a superb comeback that saw the team initially bridge a six-point gap behind Zamalek at the top before going five points clear of their archrivals with two matches to go.

Egypt’s most successful club are now on the verge of clinching a seventh successive league accolade and their 36th overall. A win over Arab Contractors, who were relegated to the second division for the first time since 2004, will be enough to crown them Egypt's champions.

“All the players are very concentrated on settling the league into our favour against Contractors,” Jose, who steered Ahly to five league titles during his previous two stints at the helm, said on the club’s official website.

“But the match will not be easy. Contractors will not be under pressure because they are already relegated, so they might give us a stern test.”

Ahly have no injury worries, apart from long-term absentee Mohamed Abou-Treika, who was ruled out for the rest of the season due to an injury.

Left-back Sayed Moawad will miss out on the game for disciplinary reasons, amid reports suggesting that his days at Ahly are numbered. The Egyptian international was fined by the club after protesting Jose’s decision to substitute him during the 2-2 draw at home to Smouha.

Veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan, whose current deal expires at the end of the season, has also been left out of Ahly's squad, fostering speculation that he would join Zamalek.  

Zamalek are still clinging to their faint hope of causing a huge upset in the decisive stage of the season as they host Wadi Degla, who survived relegation in their debut season in the top flight.

The White Knights will have to do without influential wingers Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’, the league’s top scorer with 13 goals, and Qatari Hussein Yasser, who produced a string of impressive displays lately.

Shikabala was given a two-match ban for mocking referee Fahim Omar during the 1-1 draw with Ittihad, which effectively ended Zamalek’s hopes of winning the title, while Yasser will serve an automatic one-game suspension for accumulating four yellow cards.

The penultimate round will also witness an exciting race for fourth place, which earns qualification for the CAF Confederation Cup, Africa’s secondary club competition.

Ittihad El-Shorta, Maqassa and ENPPI are all tied on 43 points, three behind third-placed Ismaily.

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