Ahly Ultras fans commemorating the death of their comrades who lost their lives in the 2012 Port-Said massacre (Photo: Ahram)
A beleaguered Ahly side would have hoped to face ENPPI in Wednesday's Egyptian league fixture in much better conditions, just one week ahead of the anticipated derby clash with arch-rivals Zamalek.
Africa's most successful club Ahly, who have been largely renowned for their stability during the past decades, are currently enduring difficult conditions on both technical and administrative fronts.
Following the exit of Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro, who left to join Porto after less than four months in charge of the club, Ahly suddenly found themselves on the look-out for a new manager before the half-way mark of the season.
And despite winning their two league games under caretaker coach Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafi 'Zizo', who replaced Peseiro at the helm, Ahly still faced problems on the administrative front.
After seeing a court ruling dissolve the current elected board due to 'procedural errors', which were cited as a reason behind the verdict, the club's administration needed a ministerial decision to keep them in place until new elections are held.
But it wasn't the end of problems though, with another issue threatening to distract the team's attention before their crucial visit to ENPPI – with the club's ardent Ultras fans involved this time around.
Commemorating the death of 72 Ultras members, who lost their lives in the 2012 Port-Said massacre, some fans directed their anger towards the military and security institutions, accusing them of complicity in Egypt's worst-ever football tragedy.
The fans' chants were openly denounced by Ahly president Mahmoud Taher who described them as 'paid thugs', while maintaining that future training sessions will be held in the absence of supporters.
In such circumstances, Ahly head into the league game with ENPPI - looking for a win to cement their position on top of the table before meeting reigning champions Zamalek, who are just one point behind them.
To rub salt in the wound, the Reds are not at full strength as they are missing pacey striker Malick Evouna and playmaker Saleh Gomaa, who proved influential in recent games, despite being declared fit on Monday.
Moreover, winger Walid Soliman, right-back Bassem Ali and center-back Mohamed Naguib are all missing out for different reasons.
Ahly are currently top of the table on 32 points, one ahead of second-placed Zamalek, while ENPPI are ninth on 21.
Earlier in the day, another enticing league clash will be taking place when Zamalek visit Ismaily at Ismailiya Sadium.
Unlike Ahly, Zamalek - who have long been known of their administrative instability – enter the game in much favorable conditions.
Most notable is the inclusion of midfield anchor Tarek Hamed and right-back Hazem Emam, after the former had been stretchered off during the recent 1-1 draw with Smouha and the latter sidelined for long spells due to injury.
New winter-signing Emmanuel Mayuka could well make his debut for Zamalek, with another January-arrival in left-back Ramzi Khaled also available for the first time.
Right-back Omar Gaber will sit out the game due to automatic suspension, while striker Ahmed Hassan Mekki and Mohamed Ibrahim were all left out by manager Mido due to technical reasons.
Zamalek also had the contracts of skillful attacking midfield duo Mostafa Fathi and Ayman Hefni extended till 2012 with improved salaries during the past few days, a factor that may well give the influential duo a boost before the game.
On the other side, Ismaily will have to do without skipper Hosni Abd-Rabou due to injury, as well as ex-Ahly defender Sherif Abdel-Fadil because of flu.
Three-time Egyptian champions Ismaily are in 12th spot on 18 points.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)