Preview: Ahly facing vital Cairo derby test after Mosimane's departure

Hatem Maher , Saturday 18 Jun 2022

Ahly will face their first real test following the departure of Pitso Mosimane when they meet Zamalek in the Cairo derby at Al-Salam Stadium on Sunday, where a win will put them in pole position to wrestle the Egyptian Premier League title back from their bitter rivals.

Ahly 5-3 Zamalek
Ahly defeated Zamalek 5-3 in their last meeting in November 2021 (Ahram)

Mosimane dropped a bombshell last Monday when he left Ahly by mutual consent after a highly-successful 20-month reign that yielded back-to-back African Champions League crowns, an Egypt Cup title and two Club World Cup bronze medals.

He also led Ahly to other minor accolades but was still criticised by a section of the demanding supporters for losing last season's domestic league title to Zamalek and this term's Champions League after they lost 2-0 to Morocco's Wydad in the final.

Mosimane, an African football expert who also won with Mamelodi Sundowns the Champions League in 2016, admitted that it was not easy to live with the pressure of guiding a storied club like Ahly.

But for Mosimane's assistant Sami Komsan, the pressure is more immense.

Komsan found himself in an unenviable situation when he was drafted in as a caretaker boss to lead the Red Devils in a run that includes a daunting challenge against Zamalek.

If he prevails, he will be branded a hero but if he fails to deliver, the club's board will be in for some heavy criticism for letting go of Mosimane, whose Ahly side ruthlessly defeated Zamalek 5-3 in the reverse fixture in November last year.

That enthralling contest, in which Ahly at one point led 5-1, marked the highest-scoring Cairo derby ever.

Komsan's first match in charge saw Ahly crush bottom side Eastern Company 4-1 despite playing without their Egyptian international players, who had just returned home following the Pharaohs' 4-1 loss to South Korea in a friendly.

"Leading Ahly for even one game is a big honour and a big responsibility on my shoulders, but my entire focus is on successfully passing this important period," he said.

Inconsistent Zamalek

Zamalek have their own problems too. The team have been largely inconsistent this term, with even the arrival of veteran Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who led them to a rare domestic double in 2015, failing to turn around their fortunes.

The club are suffering from shortage of options after being hit with a FIFA transfer ban last summer and Ferreira is struggling to fill the gaps.

They needed an extra time to scrape into the Egypt Cup last 16 with a 2-1 win over second-division side Dakhleya last Monday after producing another lifeless performance.

Although Zamalek lead the league table with 44 points, four ahead of Ahly, the latter still have three games in hand. Should Ahly defeat Zamalek and win their rescheduled matches, they will pull eight points clear on top.

Ahly were boosted by the return from injury of several key players ahead of the game, including Tunisian left-back Ali Maaloul and midfield duo Amr El-Sulaya and Hamdi Fathi.

However, they will miss central defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneim, who was a key member of an Egypt side that reached the African Nations Cup final earlier this year. There are also doubts over the fitness of Malian midfielder Aliou Dieng.

Zamalek welcome back defender Mohamed Abdel-Ghani but his defensive partner, Mahmoud Alaa, is out due to automatic suspension.

The White Knights are also missing their two right-backs, Hazem Emam and Tunisian Hamza Mathlouthi. Midfield linchpin Tarek Hamed, who reports said will not prolong his deal after it expires at the end of this month, is also out with injury.

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