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Preview: Ahly, Zamalek face tough Moroccan tests in African competitions

Hatem Maher , Saturday 18 Apr 2015
Ahly's players in a training session ahead of Sunday's Champions League clash away to Morocco's Moghreb Tetouan (Photo: the club's official website)
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Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek are favourites to advance to the next stage of the African Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively but North African tests are usually tricky as they take on Moroccan sides on Sunday.

Record eight-time winners Ahly face Moghreb Tetouan away from home in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 amid speculation over the future of under-fire coach Juan Carlos Garrido, who has come in for fierce criticism lately following some disappointing results in the Egyptian Premier League.

Zamalek, who are making their first appearance in the Confederation Cup since the competition's new format was introduced in 2004, host FUS Rabat in Suez in buoyant mood as they look well-equipped to end an 11-year league drought.

On paper, the pedigree of Ahly and Zamalek should see them through but Egypt's rivalry with North African outfits, who are usually roared on by a passionate crowd at home, makes things more difficult than they seem.

"Sunday's match will be so difficult. We are facing a very good side who boast many excellent players," Zamalek winger Ahmed Eid, who has been one of their key performers so far this season, said on the club's official website.

"We have to focus on getting a good result before the second leg. Our matches against North African sides are always strong and tense."

Zamalek's website quoted Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira as telling his players that they should not focus too much on securing a "big win" ahead of the second leg, saying they just need to be fully focused.

Ahly eased pressure on Garrido when they crushed Assiouty Sport 5-0 in the domestic league last week to keep alive their hopes of equaling their own record of winning the title nine times in a row.

The Red Devils are eager to avoid a repeat of last season's stunning reverse when they were eliminated at the last-16 stage after losing to Libya's Ahly Benghazi. They were demoted to the Confederation Cup, which they won to become the first Egyptian side to clinch the title of Africa's secondary club competition.

Zamalek will miss key central defender Ahmed Dweidar due to injury while Ahly may have to do without influential winger Walid Soliman, who is suffering from a knee problem.

Zamalek will play their home game behind closed doors as Egyptian authorities continue to enforce a crowd ban due to security concerns, as will Ahly when they host Tetouan in the second leg in a fortnight.

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