Egypt will look to pick up consecutive wins and extend their lead at the top of Group D of the 2023 AFCON qualifiers when they visit the Bingu National Stadium to face Ethiopia on Thursday.
The Walia Ibex, on the other hand, head into the game winless in each of their last 11 outings across all competitions and will be looking to end this dry spell.
Ethiopia started their quest for a place in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on the back foot as they suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Malawi on Sunday.
Orlando Pirates forward Gabadinho Mhango netted twice from the penalty spot to put the hosts in front heading into half time before Abubeker Nasir pulled one back in the 68th minute.
Wubetu Abate’s men have now failed to taste victory in any of their last 11 games across all competitions, including each of their three games at the 2022 AFCON back in January, when they finished rock-bottom in Group A with one point from a possible nine.
This poor run has been owing to their defensive frailties as they have conceded 18 goals since a 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe back in September 2021, while scoring nine at the opposite end of the pitch.
While Ethiopia set out to secure consecutive AFON appearances, next up is the challenge of an opposing side who are unbeaten in each of their last eight encounters, claiming six wins and two draws since a 1-0 loss back in 1989.
Egypt, on the other hand, were forced to work their socks off in Sunday’s group opener against Guinea as they scrapped a narrow 1-0 victory on home turf.
In a cagey affair at the Cairo International Stadium, Galatasaray forward Mostafa Mohamed came up clutch for the Pharaohs as he scored an 89th-minute winner to see off the Syli National.
Prior to that, Egypt saw their hopes of reaching the forthcoming World Cup come to an end as they suffered a gruesome penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Senegal back in March’s qualification playoff.
Ehab Galal’s side, who were also beaten on penalties by Senegal in the 2022 AFCON final earlier this year, are eyeing their 26th appearance at the continental showpiece.
Their last title triumph came back in 2010, when they claimed a 1-0 victory over West African giants Ghana courtesy of an 85th-minute strike from Mohamed Nagy.
With his winner against Guinea, Mohamed now has three goals in 19 senior caps for Egypt and the Ajax man should retain his place at the attacking end of the pitch.
He should once again team up with Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, who is currently second in the nation’s all-time scoring chart with 47 goals in 82 appearances.
Hamdi Fathi was handed his fifth consecutive start against Guinea last time out and the Al Ahly man should be tasked with winning the midfield battle once again, alongside Amr Al-Sulaya and 24-year-old Emam Ashour.
At the defensive end of the pitch, we expect an unchanged back four of Omar Gaber, Yasser Ibrahim, Mahmoud Hamdi and Ayman Ashraf, shielding Zamalek goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal between the sticks.
As for Ethiopia, Mesud Mohammed failed to make his mark in the game against Malawi and the 32-year-old could drop to the substitutes’ bench, with Shemeles Bekele pushing for a starting role.
Following his equaliser on Sunday, Abubeker Nassir now has four goals in 20 international outings and we expect the 22-year-old to lead the attack once again, teaming up with Dawa Hotessa and Saint George forward Amanuel Gebremichael.
Ethiopia possible starting lineup:
Gabal; Gaber, Ibrahim, Hamdi, Ashraf; Ashour, Al-Sulaya, Fathi; Salah, Marmoush, Zizo
Egypt possible starting lineup:
F Gebremichael; Tonjo, Baye, Debebe, Yesuf; Yohannes, Bekele; A Gebremichael, Dagnachew, Nasir; Hotessa