Ten things to anticipate in the new Egyptian Premier League season
The 2015/16 Egyptian Premier League season has finally arrived, after weeks of anticipation. In the spirit of the occasion, we’re highlighting ten things you can expect from the new season.
Less than three months after Zamalek were crowned champions of the 2014/15 Egyptian Premier League, the competition is back again. With just 18 teams this time around, big summer transfers, firings, hirings, total overhauls and continental disappoint for Egyptian teams, fans cannot wait for the action to resume. Moreover, players and managers alike are chomping at the bit to either replicate successes, redeem themselves after failure, or to prove themselves in the first place. Here are ten things you can expect from the new Egptian Premier League season, brought to you by King Fut:
A ‘new’ Al Ahly
By the Red Devils’ lofty standards, 2014/15 was a failure. dozens of teams would be ecstatic after winning a trophy, but not Al Ahly. In fact, the 2014 Super Cup victory against Zamalek was long-forgotten after the 2-0 loss to their bitter rivals in the 2014/15 Egypt Cup, as the Whites completed the domestic double and beat Al Ahly for the first time in 22 matches, a run that stretched back to 2007. Forwards John Antwi and Malick Evouna, ex-Nacional midfielder Saleh Gomaa, and physically imposing centre-backs Rami Rabia and Ahmed Hegazy were signed from Sporting and Fiorentina respectively, after less-than-stellar spells abroad. José Peseiro and Sayed Abdel-Hafiz have been appointed as the new manager and director of football respectively, after the board decided to sack Fathi Mabrouk and Alaa Abdel-Sadek in the aftermath of the team’s poor results at the end of 2014/15. The Portuguese has a point to prove, especially after the storm of criticism that engulfed him as soon as his name was announced by the club. The bottom line? Expect a much, much better Ahly this season, one that will fight to the end for the league title.
A stronger Zamalek
Things are looking rosy in Mit Okba, despite the Super Cup loss to Al Ahly. A historic season was somewhat dampened by the 5-1 hammering in Sousse, but the 3-0 win in the return leg made the CAF Confederation Cup exit easier to stomach. The previous season has helped instill a winning mentality in the players’ minds, and manager Jesualdo Ferreira has gotten used to his surroundings, to an extent. That, coupled with reinforcements such as the maddening but brilliant Mahmoud Kahraba, means the Whites will be looking to prove that last season was not a fluke. As a result, Zamalek will likely be right in the mix when it comes to the title challenge and with Mortada Mansour in charge, there will be no shortage of shenanigans along the way.
Fiery Cairo derbies
Aside from the extremely storied history between Egypt’s two biggest clubs – which we don’t really need to get into, seeing as it’s common knowledge, more or less – there will also be a bigger battle than usual on the touchline: Portugal’s José Peseiro and Jesualdo Ferreira have already face each other five times, with each manager coming out on top twice. With the teams and resources at their disposal and a potential league title at stake, they can take their personal rivalry to the next level.
Stronger ‘supporting cast’
It’s unfair to other teams to consider them as also-rans in the race for the league title, but history has proved that to be true more often than not. It’s highly likely that Al Ahly and Zamalek will be the favorites for the title, even though a changing of the guard would be welcome to many. Ismaily have a new manager in Ahmed Hossam ‘Mido’, a man credited for ‘discovering’ Mostafa Fathy and Youssef ‘Obama’. The Dervishes have a strong team on paper, one that includes the likes of Shikabala. Smouha have reinforced their squad after last season’s poor showing in the Champions League, and the impact of the arrivals was immediately obvious, with the Alexandria-based outfit reaching the Cup semi-finals and exiting on penalties to eventual champions Zamalek. Another team to watch are ENPPI, who impressed many in 2014/15, after keeping pace with Zamalek for the first half of the campaign, before the gap in quality showed as the season progressed. Boss Hany Ramzy is bringing a progressive managerial style to the club, and another solid showing is to be expected this season, if they can acclimatize to the demands of continental football. Newly-promoted Entag El-Harby have made several huge signings at the playing and managerial level, while Wadi Degla have maintained their core. Last season’s surprise package Misr El-Maqassa have more than proved themselves, with their fourth-placed finish the highest in the club’s history. It remains to be seen if the Confederation Cup will negatively impact their domestic performances.
No obvious relegation candidates
The three promoted teams this season (Aswan, Entag and Ghazl El-Mahalla) have an air of steeliness around them, so don’t be surprised if the battle at the foot of the table produces some unexpected, ‘stronger’ teams.
Entag will impress
Here’s a quick look at Entag El-Harby’s summer:
- Shawky Gharib appointed as manager
- Mohamed Nagy Gedo, Mohamed Zidan, Mahmoud Fathallah, Shehab Ahmed, and Nigerian striker Peter Ebimobowei all signed for the club
- Chairman Maher Kosba made the team’s lofty ambitions clear in an interview with King Fut
Yes, the team might take too long to gel and Gharib might follow up his unsuccessful stint as national team manager with another sub-par one, but the signs so far are positive. The first few weeks will probably serve as a good indicator of their season.
Mladenov will spur Ittihad on
The Alexandrian club decided to go with Bulgarian Stoycho Mladenov as their new manager. The Bulgarian previously managed ENPPI, as well as Al-Ahli (Saudi Arabia). He also has the advantage of being at the club for about three months, during which he’s played several friendlies and signed new players. Expect good things from him.
Aswan under Emad El-Nahhas
More often than not, the teams that achieve promotion via Group A (the teams based in Upper Egypt), produce lots of good players. However, they seem to miss that winning mentality – a manager to help guide them during the top flight. Not only do they have their own ground, but the key factor remains their manager, former Al Ahly star Emad El-Nahhas, one of the finest defenders to grace Egyptian football. The 39-year-old guided Aswan to promotion for the first time since 2003/2004, and will be looking to stay there – having built his reputation as one of the most promising managers around.
Younger managers, new ideas
Speaking of promising; Mohamed Youssef, Ahmed Hossam ‘Mido’, Emad El-Nahhas, Hany Ramzy, Ahmed Hassan, and Abdelhamid Bassyouny are all prime examples of young managers. Not only are they all young, but all of them played for at least one (if not the two) Cairo giants, and three of them played abroad – as they look to bring new ideas to Egyptian football; not only that, but Youssef was the manager that led Al Ahly to the CAF Champions League in 2013.
The 2015/2016 season is destined to bring new ideas to the world of the EgyPL.
Last but definitely not least, improved television coverage is something we’re all looking towards in the new season. Two channels plus Nile Sports will air the league encounters, meaning coverage won’t be scattered. Judging by the way the rights were sold, and the coverage of the Super Cup – we’ll sure be in for some top class broadcasting this season.
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