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Tied with the champ
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 30 - 08 - 2018

As the Egyptian football league season enters its fifth week tomorrow, it is no surprise that Ahly, the defending champions, and with their new French Manager Patrice Carteron, are on top of the table with 10 points from four games. What is surprising is the newly-born club Pyramids, tied with the champions on points.
Ahly lost their first two points in their league match opener against Ismaili after they drew 1-1 at Al-Salam Stadium. Then, Ahly won three matches, scoring six goals, conceding only one and keeping three clean sheets. Ahly beat Masri 2-0, Wadi Degla 1-0 and Haras Al-Hodoud 2-0.
Pyramids sacked their head coach Alberto Valentim after only three games, in which he got them seven points. They then appointed the 66-year-old Argentinian Ricardo La Volpe as head coach. He won his first game, on Sunday against Dakhliya 3-1, and secured second position for his club on goal difference.
Smouha and Entag Al-Harbi are third and fourth respectively at eight points each.
Zamalek, Ahly's perennial rival, will try to end their arch foe's domination of the league in the last three seasons. As of Sunday 26 August, Zamalek were in fifth place with seven points from three matches. Zamalek's new Swiss Head Coach Christian Gross drew in their first game against Petrojet 0-0, who then found their rhythm and won two successive games against Ittihad of Alexandria 5-1 and Masr Al-Makasa 1-0.
This season, Zamalek are fighting for the Egyptian league, Egyptian Cup, Arab Champions Cup and the upcoming African Confederations Cup season of 2018-2019.
The Suez Canal clubs Ismaili and Masri did not get off to good starts after finishing second and third last year. Ismaili, with their Algerian Head Coach Khaireddin Madowy, has been able to collect only five points from four games. They blew their lead against Ahly in the last minutes of their league opener, then lost their second two points after Petrojet forced a 0-0 draw.
Ismaili lost their third match against Ittihad 1-0. They finally secured their first three points in the fourth week of the league when they beat Masr Al-Makasa 1-0.
Masri, with Hossam Hassan as head coach, started the league with the most disappointing performance of his side in the last four years. However, the 52-year-old coach is aiming for his first title with the Port Said Club. This year, Masri will compete for the Egyptian league, Egyptian Cup and African Confederation Cup.
Masri have secured a place in the quarter-finals of the African Confederations Cup for the first time in the club's history. They finished the group stage in second place after the Moroccan cub RS Berkane. Masri finished with nine points, scored five goals and conceded two.
Alexandria has three clubs playing in the Egyptian league this season: Ittihad, Smouha and Haras Al-Hodoud.
Ittihad, who have the biggest fan base in the city, are fighting this season in more than one competition: the Egyptian league, cup and Arab Champions Cup.
In the domestic league, they secured five points after four matches. They won only one game, against Ismaili 1-0, lost against Zamalek 5-1 and drew two against Arab Contractors and Masri 1-1 and 2-2 respectively.
Smouha, the 2017 Egyptian Cup runner-up, and with Ali Maher as head coach, are aiming to achieve their first title this year.
The Alexandrian club secured eight points up until now. They won two matches against Masr Al-Makasa and Enppi, 2-1 and 3-2 respectively. And they drew two matches against Nojom FC and Geish 0-0.
Haras Al-Hodoud are in the relegation zone, losing three games, drawing one and no wins. Emad Suleiman, Al-Hodoud's head coach, could be the first Egyptian manager to be sacked this season.
The verdict from the first month of league play: there will probably not be a new champion.
Ahly and Zamalek and less likely Pyramids are the only clubs who have the potential to compete for the league. Still, it is hoped the upcoming weeks will continue to surprise with excitement and challenging fixtures.

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