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Thursday, 22 April 2021

Preview: Holders Ahly stick to old guard as they eye second league win

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 21 Sep 2016
Ahly 1-0 Ismaily
Ahly defeated Ismaily 1-0 in their Egyptian Premier League opener (Ahram)
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Title holders Ahly, who are eyeing a new lease of life under coach Hossam El-Badry, are sill sticking to the old guard despite much criticism as they meet Arab Contractors in their second Egyptian Premier League game on Thursday.

Although the Red Devils clinched their ninth league title in 10 seasons last term, they still came in for fierce criticism by their own demanding supporters after losing to arch rivals Zamalek in the Egypt Cup final before suffering en embarrassing African Champions League group-stage exit.

The sudden decline in form led to the resignation of Dutch coach Martin Jol and the club swiftly moved to appoint El-Badry as the new boss, with the 56-year-old taking charge of Egypt and Africa's most successful side for a third spell.

Some veterans in Ahly's squad, including skipper Hossam Ghaly and defensive midfielder Hossam Ashour, were singled out by the fans for some stuttering displays but El-Badry seems to have kept faith with them.

None of the new close-season arrivals, except Tunisian full-back Ali Maaloul who had already played in last season's Egypt Cup, was present as Ahly opened their new campaign with a convincing 1-0 victory over foes Ismaily on Saturday.

El-Badry also left central midfielder Akram Tawfik and Nigerian striker Junior Ajayi, who both joined in the summer from ENPPI and Tunisia's Sfaxien respectively, out of Thursday's game against Contractors, preferring to stick to the core of the side which won the league last season.

The match build-up was dominated by Ahly's protests over the security officials' refusal to allow them to host Contractors at Cairo Stadium, their traditional venue which has been mainly closed during the past few years due to security concerns.

Ahly were incensed after learning that the 84,100-seat stadium will host another league game between Wadi Degla and Ittihad of Alexandria on Saturday, complaining of unfavorable treatment.

The Cairo giants will host Arab Contractors at Cairo's tiny Petrosport Stadium, where they beat Ismaily in the league opener, thanks a penalty from in-form playmaker Abdallah El-Saied.

Contractors lost 3-1 to Ittihad in their opening game.

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