Zamalek’s target to win a first Egyptian Premier League title in seven years will largely depend on whether they can keep second placed Ismaily at bay when both sides meet in a much anticipated clash Monday.
Ahly’s disappointing goalless draw against Masry left them six points behind leaders and arch-rivals Zamalek, who might now look at Ismaily as the more threatening title challengers.
Ismaily, who are five points adrift of Zamalek, appeared livelier in their first match following the dismissal of Dutch coach Mark Wotte, beating Gouna 3-2 in a thrilling encounter under new tactician Emad Soliman.
Zamalek, on the other hand, struggled to break down ENPPI in a dull goalless draw that had fans worrying over whether the White Knights would be able to maintain their winning rhythm at such a crucial stage of the season.
“Our players were not at their best against ENPPI; that’s why we couldn’t win,” the team’s football director Ibrahim Hassan, twin brother of head coach Hossam, said. “But that doesn’t mean this result will affect us against Ismaily. I asked the players to fully concentrate on the coming match,” he added.
Ivorian striker Abou Kone was left out of Zamalek’s squad after failing to shine lately, making room for Algerian Mohamed Aoudia who has just recovered from injury.
Ismaily will have to do without influential defenders Moatasem Salem and Shady Mohamed, who were ruled out of the game due to injury and suspension respectively. They will also be without first-choice keeper Mohamed Sobhy after he picked up an injury.
In other matches, Arab Contractors will be eager to ease their relegation worries when they play an in-form Petrojet side. The Mountain Wolves lie second from bottom with 13 points, three adrift of safety.
Haras El-Hodoud will be looking to build up on their recent fine form when they meet Masr lel Maqassa, while Ittihad El-Shorta will be aiming to hold onto fourth place at the expense of El-Entag El-Harby.