CAIRO: African champions Al Ahly will visit Ghazl El-Mahalla on the opening day of the revived Egyptian league championship after publication of the schedule writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

All domestic professional football has been suspended since last February 1 when 72 Al Ahly fans were killed and hundreds injured in the Port Said massacre. Verdicts in the trial of security officials is due on Saturday, one day after the second anniversary of the 2011 revolution.

Remarkably, Al Ahly managed to win the African Champions League and go on to the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan last December where they lost 1-0 to ultimate champions Corinthians of Brazil in the semi-finals then by 2-0 to Monterrey in the third place play-off.

Al Ahly have been record 36-times champions of Egypt and have won the cup on a record 17 occasions. Their finest player, veteran midfielder Mohammed Aboutrika, is expected to remain with the club after turning accepting  a pay cut rather than a more lucrative offer to play in the United Arab Emirates with Baniyas of Abu Dhabi.

The Egyptian Premier League, scheduled to begin February 2 with 18 clubs, will be played over two groups for the fifth time in its 65years.  The winners and runners-up of each group will qualify for the semifinals.

Al Ahly, who won the last championship in 2011, were drawn in Group A along with ENPPI, Harras El-Hodoud, Ghazl El-Mahalla, Beni Suef Telephones, Wadi Degla, Maqassa, Smouha and Gouna.

Old Cairo rivals Zamalek will start at home to Ittihad of Alexandria in Group B which is completed by Ismaily, Dakhleya, El-Inttag El-Harby, Ittihad Al-Shorta, Petrojet, Talae El-Geish and Arab Contractors.

The identity of Zamalek’s coach is uncertain. Brazilian Jorvan Vieira had threatened to quit the club he joined only last autumn because of repeated uncertainty over the restart of league competition.

Vieira, whose family live in the UAE, has already held informal discussions with other clubs and two national teams.  Vieira, 59, guided Iraq to their remarkable Asian Cup success in 2007.

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