Preview: Ahly hope return of injured defenders can bring them back on track

Ahram Online , Wednesday 5 May 2021

Central defensive pair Badr Benoun and Ayman Ashraf back for Ahly for the Egyptian Premier League clash against Ittihad of Alexandria

File photo of Ahly's Moroccan defender Badr Benoun (Ahram)

Stuttering Ahly will be hoping the return of their key defenders from injury end their recent poor run as they meet Ittihad in a tough Egyptian Premier League game on Thursday.

The Red Devils, who are eyeing a sixth straight league crown, won only two of their previous four matches, losing another two and drawing once.

Zamalek, their main challengers for the title, have also stumbled of late in what could be a tightly-contested race between the perennial Cairo rivals.

Ahly have mainly suffered of fatigue but also sorely missed almost their entire backline due to a string of injuries. Their makeshift defence has been largely porous, conceding six goals in five matches.

However, they welcome back Moroccan Badr Benoun and his central defensive partner Ayman Ashraf against Ittihad in a timely boost amid fixture congestion.

Mahmoud Metwalli, a back-up option, has also been included in Ahly's squad for the first time since August last year after recovering from a lengthy injury lay-off.

"We are paying the price of having to play a big number of games in a very short time," Ahly's football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz said following Monday's stunning 1-0 loss to promoted Ghazl El-Mahalla, who also claimed the scalp of Zamalek earlier in the season.

"We have to deal with that and we have to focus on our next important matches against Ittihad and Zamalek."

A victory for Ahly would boost their morale before they meet Zamalek in the Cairo derby on Monday. Should they win their games in hand, they will go two points clear of Zamalek on top of the standings.

Ittihad, who are managed by ex-Ahly great and Egypt's all-time leading scorer Hossam Hassan, are having a fine season as they lie fifth in the table with 29 points from 19 games.

They have fared better than Ahly in their last five matches, winning twice and drawing twice.

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