A disastrous Group G start last month saw the Pharaohs lose 2-0 away to Senegal and 1-0 at home to Tunisia, leaving them bottom of the table, six points adrift of the front-runners.
Botswana are equally desperate for maximum points at the National Stadium having lost 2-1 away to Tunisia and 2-0 at home to Senegal.
Egypt won three consecutive Cup of Nations titles between 2006 and 2010 but then failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2013 tournaments.
Coach Hassan Shehata, mastermind of the title hat-trick, quit after the 2012 exit and American Bob Bradley was in charge for the 2013 campaign.
Shawky Gharib, assistant to Shehata and Bradley, was promoted and his pre-qualifiers promise that Egypt would regain the title seems extraordinarily optimistic.
Angry Egyptian football officials have warned the former national team midfielder that he will be sacked if the country suffers the humiliation of a third consecutive qualifying flop.
“National team results are the responsibility of the coaches and we will hire a foreigner if Gharib fails to take the team to Morocco,” football association president Gamal Allam warned.
Gharib suffered a late blow when one of seven overseas-based players in a 25-man squad, Hull City wing-back Ahmed Elmohamady, withdrew injured.
Egypt are a team in transition and Gharib has not found a new ‘spine’ to replace retired defender Wael Gomaa and midfielder Mohamed Abou Trika and injured striker Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagy.
Botswana, who are 10 places below Egypt in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) rankings, were unlucky losers in Tunisia before failing to match the classy Senegalese.
Former West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Peter Butler coaches a squad skippered by South Africa-based midfielder Joel Mogorosi and composed largely of locals.
– Senegal look to Cisse –
Senegal hope Newcastle United striker Papiss Cisse can maintain his hot English Premier League form when they host Tunisia in Dakar on Friday.
Cisse bagged a brace in a draw at Swansea City last weekend and his return from a kneecap injury will compensate for the absence of Stoke City striker Mame Diouf, sidelined by a hamstring problem.
The Senegalese are currently among the most impressive African teams with both goals against Egypt created by superb defence-splitting passes from Lokomotiv Moscow’s Dame Ndoye.
Defending champions Nigeria visit Sudan on Saturday desperate for a first Group A win after a shock home loss to Congo Brazzaville and an uninspiring away draw with South Africa.
Coach Stephen Keshi recalled Victor Moses only for the in-form Stoke City midfielder to withdraw because of a thigh injury.
Out-of-contract Keshi, who is continuing at the request of the sports minister, has also had to contend with an outburst from Emmanuel Emenike.
The Turkey-based striker was angered by public criticism from the coach, who claimed Emenike lacked respect for fellow Super Eagles.
“I am honoured to play for Nigeria and respect the coach,” said Emenike. “If he feels I will not help achieve results or harmony, he can omit me.”
South Africa tackle Congo in Atlantic city Pointe-Noire, scene of ugly clashes between the countries in a 1998 World Cup qualifier won 2-0 by the central African Red Devils.
Several South Africans finished the game in blood-stained jerseys and TV coverage was temporarily halted when assault rifle-wielding soldiers threatened cameramen.
Cameroon have ignored West Ham United midfielder Alex Song for an ‘away’ Group D game against Sierra Leone, who will play in Yaounde because of the Ebola epidemic.
Song has completed a three-match ban after elbowing a Croatian in the back during the World Cup.
Cameroon have put a disastrous World Cup campaign behind them with convincing victories over the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast.
The Ivorians reacted to a 4-1 Yaounde drubbing by axing Souleymane Bamba and recalling another long-serving defender, Siaka Tiene, for the clash with DR Congo in Kinshasa.
Top-ranked Algeria play Malawi in Blantyre, Ghana face Guinea in Morocco owing to the Ebola outbreak, and 2012 champions Zambia meet Niger in Niamey.