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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Preview: Zamalek playing for pride against champions Ahly in Cairo derby

Ahram Online , Saturday 27 Jul 2019
Ahly v Zamalek
Ahly's Ramadan Sobhi in action with Zamalek's Abdallah Gomaa in the Cairo derby in March 2019 (Reuters)
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Demoralized after allowing Ahly to snatch the Egyptian Premier League title from under their noses, Zamalek will be looking to restore their pride when they meet their foes in the Cairo derby on the final day of the season on Sunday.

Ahly won the premier domestic competition for the fourth successive season on Wednesday after easily beating Arab Contractors 3-1, completing a remarkable comeback after they were written off by many at the halfway stage after falling eight points behind their rivals.

Zamalek have only themselves to blame after a series of disappointing results in the second half of the season, including two consecutive draws in the final stage after they opted not to renew the contract of Swiss boss Christian Gross, handing the reins to rookie coach Khaled Galal instead.

There is at least some room for consolation, however, when Zamalek meet Ahly at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium. Last season, Zamalek defeated the Red Devils 2-1 when the latter were already crowned champions.

"Coach Galal asked the players to put the league loss behind them and focus consoling their fans by winning the coming game against Ahly," Zamalek said on their official website.

Ahly would be also keen to assert their dominance and win the derby, with Uruguayan coach Martin Lasarte criticized by many fans for failing to prevail in any high-profile match since his arrival in January.

The team played out a bore 0-0 draw with Zamalek in the first derby of the season in March, lost twice to big-spending Pyramids and drew twice with Ismaily.

"I have the utmost confidence in my players that they can separate the league triumph from the match against Zamalek, which will still be special," Ahly's football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz said.

"We are still motivated to win this game and finish the league in the best possible way."

Zamalek will miss forward Youssef Ibrahim, who is serving the second of a three-game suspension. Ahly almost have a fully-fit squad to choose from.

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