After their recent achievement of reaching the African Champions League group stage, Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek will be eying positive results when they return to Egyptian League action on Tuesday.
Boosted by the African achievement, league leaders Ahly will be hosted by Alexandria-based Smouha, while champions Zamalek will be facing military outfit Haras El-Hodoud.
Both teams progressed at the prestigious continental tournament, as Ahly were lucky to score a last-gasp goal, achieving a priceless 2-1 home victory to pass Tanzania's Young Africans on Wednesday.
A day earlier, Zamalek survived an Algerian scare after earning a return-leg 1-1 late draw against hosts MO Bejaia to book a place in the group stage.
Easy test for Zamalek, difficult for Ahly
Returning to the domestic scene Tuesday, champions Zamalek, who lie second on the league table with 42 points, will be looking to close the 11-point gap with leaders Ahly.
They are expected to have a difficult test against 11th-placed Haras El-Hodoud, who lost their last two league games against Smouha and Ittihad of Alexnadria respectively.
Against El-Hodoud, the Whites will be missing key elements in midfielder Omar Gaber, first-choice keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi, defender Ahmed Dewidar and playmaker Ayman Hefni due to various injuries.
Influential playmaker Mostafa Fathi is ready for the match after recovering from a muscle injury, while striker Basem Morsi has ended his suspension.
Zamalek's Scottish coach Alex McLeish has asked his players to forget the African tournament and concentrate on proceeding domestically regardless of the gap with rivals Ahly.
On the other side, Ahly, who seek to extend their league leadership, will be facing a difficult challenge, especially as key player Ramadan Sobhi will not be available due to suspension.
Sobhi, who can operate as a winger or playmaker, has been key in settling many matches in Ahly's favour thanks to his skills and physique, which have made him a darling of the fans.
Fourth-placed Smouha beat Ahly 3-0 in the first round of the Egyptian League, but the recent consistent performance by the coastal side and winning four of their last five league matches will make Ahly's mission for payback harder.
Gabonese striker Malick Evouna is ready to boost Ahly's attacking line after recovering from abdominal pain, while forgotten playmaker Ahmed El-Sheikh could play from the start to cover Sobhi's absence.
"The Alexandrian side has more talented players and I know them well, so the game will be difficult," Ahly coach Martin Jol told reporters after Sunday's training.
"I know the first round result – when they were defeated 3-0 – could be a motive for Ahly players to achieve a positive result in this game," the Dutch tactician added.
On the other hand, Smouha coach Helmy Toulan said: "My team is ready to be a stiff opponent for Ahly. We enjoy a full squad ahead of Tuesday's match."
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