Preview: Salah-less Egypt aim to get Nations Cup qualifiers off to convincing start

Ahram Online , Wednesday 13 Nov 2019

Egypt open their Group G campaign against Kenya in Alexandria on Thursday at 18:00 Cairo time (16:00 GMT)

Egypt defeated Liberia 1-0 in their last friendly game (Ahram)

Egypt will be looking to make light of their absences and get their African Nations Cup qualifying campaign to a winning start when they host Kenya at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Thursday.

The Pharaohs are overwhelming favourites to finish on top of a group that also includes Comoros and Togo but they will have to do without some key players when they entertain Kenya, including talisman Mohamed Salah.

The Liverpool man is nursing an ankle injury that he aggravated in the 3-1 Premier League win over Manchester City, in which he headed home the second for his sixth goal of the season.

Without him, Egypt often struggle for firepower in the final third. They also find it difficult to carve out openings without Salah's trademark runs behind the defence.

However, coach Hossam El-Badry, who will make his competitive debut having overseen two unconvincing friendly victories over Botswana and Liberia, is adamant Egypt can fill the void left by Salah.

"He is not fit to play with the team ... but we have four players in his position and they are capable of replacing him," he told the pre-match news conference.

El-Badry will also miss another influential winger in Ramadan Sobhi and striker Mostafa Mohamed, who are on international duty with Egypt's U23 side at the Nations Cup on home soil.

Sporting Braga frontman Ahmed Kouka and Ahly defensive midfielder Hamdi Fathi are also out due to injury.

Egypt looked sluggish in two 1-0 wins over Botswana and Liberia, raising question marks over their ability to get over their disappointing Nations Cup campaign when they suffered a last-16 exit at the hands of South Africa on home soil earlier this year.

Their crop of local-based players is yet to blossom on the international stage, with Egypt mainly relying on their foreign-based footballers to make the difference.

In Salah's absence, Mahmoud Trezeguet will have a big role to play, having upped his game at Aston Villa, whom he joined last summer, with two goals in back-to-back Premier League matches against Liverpool and Wolves.

But it's not yet clear who can play as a lone striker in El-Badry's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, give the injury of Kouka and the absence of Mostafa Mohamed.

Kenya have defeated Egypt only once in 22 meetings. Their most recent game saw Egypt secure a 1-0 win in a friendly match in 2014.

The record seven-time African champions next face Comoros on Monday.

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