Salah back in action as Egypt eye Nations Cup qualification in Kenya

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Egypt's Football team ( The Pharaoh) at the JKIA on Tuesday 24th March 2021 ahead of the match with Harambee Stars. Courtesy.

Egypt will have Mohamed Salah available for the first time in their African Nations Cup qualifying group as they seek to secure passage to the Cameroon finals away to Kenya on Thursday.

Liverpool talisman Salah missed Egypt’s opening four games due to injury and COVID-19 infection, with the team struggling to get going without his presence.

The Pharaohs were held to shocking draws with Kenya and Comoros in their first two matches in Group G, producing a couple of uninspiring displays that lacked any spark.

However, they recovered from the unexpected setbacks with two home and away victories over Togo, which put them in a pole position to book one of the group’s two tickets to the Cameroon finals.

Egypt top the group with eight points, on level with surprise package Comoros and five clear of Kenya in third. Togo lie at the bottom with a solitary point.

A draw for Egypt at the Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi would be enough to send them to the Nations Cup finals with one match to spare in the group.

Should they lose, they will need to avoid defeat in their final match at home to Comoros on Monday.

Salah’s return gives Egypt much-needed guile and firepower upfront, with many looking forward to a possible partnership with Ahly’s in-form playmaker Magdi Afsha.

The mercurial Salah used to blossom when fed by Abdallah El-Said, a veteran playmaker who sits out the Kenya game due to injury. Afsha has taken El-Said’s place after some impressive displays lately, having proven the main schemer of Cairo giants Ahly.

Galatasaray striker Mostafa Mohamed is also expected to get the nod upfront after making an impressive life to his Turkish loan stint, netting six goals in his first nine matches.

At the back, Egypt coach Hossam El-Badry is almost certain to give Jeddah-based defender Ahmed Hegazi a starting berth. He will be partnered by either Ahly’s Ayman Ashraf or Zamalek’s Mahmoud Hamdi in the heart of a four-man backline.

Ahly’s Mohamed Hani is expected to play as a right-back, with Zamalek’s Abdallah Gomaa likely to occupy the other flank.

In the heart of midfield, El-Badry will field two of Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny, Zamalek’s Tarek Hamed and Ahly duo Hamdi Fathi and Amr El-Sulaya. Mahmoud Trezeguet will play along with Afsha and Salah right behind Mostafa Mohamed.