Ittihad Alexandria, Arab Contractors in relegation dogfight

Mahmoud Mohamed, Wednesday 19 Jan 2011

Ittihad face a relegation battle against Arab Contractors; ambitious ENPPI eye second place in Day 15 of Egyptian Premier League Thursday


Ittihad Alexandria, who are no longer top-half finishers, are desperate to avoid becoming the latest "popular club" to go to the second tier of Egyptian football.

They face fellow strugglers Arab Contractors on Thursday with an eye on their third Premier League victory this season.

Persistent financial problems are taking their toll on so-called popular clubs, who have a large fan base but are struggling to compete with the financially healthier company-owned clubs.

The likes of Ghazl Mahalla, Tersana and Mansoura had to settle for places in the lower division in recent seasons after failing to keep pace with the financial demands of playing in the top tier.

Ittihad had a disastrous start to the season that saw them sack Brazilian coach Carlos Cabral and bring in Mohamed Amer as replacement.

They are languishing at the bottom of the 16-team table on 10 points from 14 games, one behind third-from-bottom Arab Contractors.

“I believe that our game against Arab Contractors will mark a new start for Ittihad,” Amer — who is yet to enjoy his first win at the helm after a four-match winless run — was quoted as saying by local media.

“The players are eager to produce good results, especially following the return of Mohamed Moselhi as the club’s chairman.”

Amer dropped controversial defender Ibrahim Saied after he was involved in a row with Ittihad’s goalkeeping coach. Striker Mohamed El-Morsy could be in line to make his first start after arriving in the ongoing January transfer window.

In-form ENPPI will be looking to move up to second and close the gap with league leaders Zamalek when they face Petrojet on Thursday.

Smouha, buoyed by their impressive 3-0 victory over Ittihad and the superb form of striker Ahmed Belal, play Wadi Degla with the aim of further moving away from the relegation zone.

Thursday’s League games (Cairo local time):

14:30 Gouna v Gaish

16:45 Arab Contractors v Ittihad Alexandria

16:45 Smouha v Wadi Degla

19:00 ENPPI v Petrojet

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