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Thursday, 14 November 2019

Preview: Egypt's Zamalek face mission impossible against Etoile

Zamalek will be hoping to achieve the unthinkable and overturn a four-goal deficit when they host Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel in the CAF Confederation Cup semi-final second leg on Saturday at 20:30 CLT

Omar Zaazou, Friday 2 Oct 2015
Zamalek
Zamalek star forward Ayman Hefni (Photo: Ahram)
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Zamalek will be fighting against the odds to mount a massive comeback and overturn a 5-1 first-leg thrashing at Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel when both teams meet in the CAF Confederation Cup semi-final second leg at Cairo's Petrosport Stadium on Sunday.

The Whites' hopes of winning a historic treble were dealt a massive blow when their side slumped to the thumping defeat last week, with Etoile virtually going through barring a stunning reserve that would see Zamalek score four goals without reply.

Zamalek will not be able to enjoy the support of their die-hard fans after security officials insisted to hold the match behind closed doors, ignoring repeated pleas from the club's board of directors.

The maximum the Zamalek board could do was to secure the presence of only 2000, mainly conscripts in the Egyptian army, in the stands.

And despite the unfavorable conditions, Mansour still believes league and cup champions Zamalek are capable of staging a massive comeback against Tunisian cup champions Etoile – maintaining his full confidence in his players' abilities.

"I'm fully confident in the players' abilities to score even more than four goals," Mansour, known for his controversial statements, told CLT TV channel.

"We scored four goals against Orlando Pirates who are stronger than Etoile, and are able to repeat it against the Tunisians."

Zamalek, however, will still miss key midfield duo Ibrahim Salah and Ahmed Tawfik – who are out with the military national team taking part in the Military World Games in South Korea.

Attacking midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim has also missed out despite being declared fit to play after missing the trip to Sousse due to injury, with Ayman Hefni, Mahmoud Kahraba, Ahmed Hamoudi and Mostafa Fathi all included.

More strangely, however, was the inclusion of converted left-back Hamada Tolba, who was forced off the pitch in Sousse, after being a major weakness on the left flank.

Zamalek boss Ferreira may still rely on the right-footed center-back out wide on the left, after he rebuffed rumours that he may field the left-footed midfielder Maarouf Yussuf as a full-back.

"I don't consider at all playing Maarouf on the left, you can't simply mix up your cards that way," Ferreira said in the pre-match press conference.

"Since Etoile were able to score five goals in the first leg, then we are also able to do the same in the second leg.

"Of course Etoile will sit back and play on the counter attack, but we will always try to find a breakthrough."

On the other side, Etoile coach Faouzi Benzarti asserted he will not change his gameplan against Zamalek, and that he will continue using the same strategy.

"I didn't make specific preparations for Zamalek, we will play our normal game," Banzarti said.

"In the first leg, we missed five key players, but in the end, we rely on the team as a whole and not on individuals.

"We haven't set a foot in the final. We haven't achieved anything yet."

Previous comebacks

Should Zamalek pull off an unlikely win that would take them through to the final, the result would be the biggest comeback in their history in African competitions.

The Cairo giants did manage to come back from a 2-0 quarter-final first leg defeat at Ethiopia's Michelle Army in the Champions League's old edition in 1976.

The team, led by the legendary Hassan Shehata, then registered a thumping 6-1 home win in the return leg to go through to the semis – where they bowed out at the hands of Nigeria's Shooting Stars on penalties.

Eight years later, Zamalek also achieved another remarkable comeback, this time against Algeria's Tizi Ouzou who intially prevailed 3-1 before the Egyptians overturned the deficit with a 3-0 home win in Cairo.

Arch-rivals Ahly have also made something similar in the last decade, when a late goal from then-midfielder Shehab Ahmed gifted them a 3-0 Champions league last-16 return-leg win over Ittihad Tripoli in 2010 – overturning a 2-0 first-leg defeat.

Ahly have also another difficult mission against South Africa's Orlando Pirates, after the Egyptians were beaten 1-0 in South Africa.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

 

 

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